Standing up for what you believe in can be hard. We all know this; some of us give up at the slightest criticism or setback, others experience compassion fatigue and still, others are unsure of what they even “stand up for,” if anything. This is all understandable, but today of course I’m addressing some of my favorite Tough Gals when it comes to shining the light on yucky food practices and the physical health effects of our industrialized food system. Call them food activists, call them bloggers, call them what you will; I’ve seen a lot of both positive and negative comments about them and their causes and I just think the negativity and backlash is a shame. The following should be an inspiration to us all to show how powerful your voice can be — and that it CAN be heard — in this niche or wherever you’re trying to fit in and make a statement.
Sofita Gatica could have turned out to be a grieving mother and let it rest there. At just 3 years old, her daughter passed away from kidney failure…and although she didn’t connect the dots at first, Gatica later realized that neighbor after neighbor in her small Argentina town started developing major health problems — serious issues that later led Gatica to research the heavy use of agrochemical spray on the soy farms surrounding the area. Soybeans treated, believe it or not, with Monsanto’s Roundup. High rates of neurological diseases, cancer, respiratory problems, and birth defects plagued the residents living within proximity to the soy fields, and it wasn’t long before Gatica realized what was happening and took the problem into her own hands, blockading the machinery, creating an international movement to protect South American communities facing the same grave dangers and even winning the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize for her work in mobilizing the loud (and effective) public response to this clear cause-and-effect schema. Municipal ordinances have been passed to put a larger distance between farms using aerial spray mechanisms and residential areas in Argentina; the Supreme Court ordered that both the government and soy producers have to prove that agrochemicals are safe before spraying; and researchers paid by Gatica (with the money from her prize) have been to several other countries to spread a message of awareness, health, and safety. Truly an image of dedication and success that started with just one woman, one voice, and, tragically, the death of a small child.
The Food Babe, a little closer to home, is someone I recently started following because of her dedication to organic living AND revealing some of the disturbing food practices of national establishments like Chik-fil-A and Panera. Her coverage of favorite fast-food institutions like these often create quite the kerfuffle among dedicated fans, but what I like about her is that she responds with both kindness and further education/research, never stooping to the low level of some of her rude commenters. It’s always better to take the high road — especially when you have health, fitness, and safety on your side to back up your claims and advice.
Kimberly Morales at Poor Girl Eats Well is a great example of someone who shows it IS possible to eat decent food on a minuscule budget — like her kale salad with strawberries and minneola dressing or her spring vegetable-brown rice risotto. She may not follow all of my fave 100 Days of Real Food food rules, but clearly, she has health in mind, and again, although some people have (unfairly if you read up on her background) criticized the suggestion that she’s “poor,” just like the Food Babe she always responds to those comments truthfully and without getting involved in any petty back-and-forth battles. She knows that clean eating is important because she suffers from some pretty scary health issues, and showing the public that you can do it if you put your mind to it comes off as effortless AND smart. A great model to follow, and lots of people do!
I’d devote another bullet to Lisa Leake, but you all know I already worship her and her insane dedication to eating only real foods, sharing that knowledge with the public, and creating a healthy environment for her family of four. She’s had her fair share of criticism as well — some people just don’t bother to read up on her budget posts, for example, which also shows it’s entirely possible to live on real foods only, even with a meager (read: food-stamp-sized) allowance — but she strongly stands behind her food philosophy and I turn to her site for inspiration and recipes daily.
If you stand behind (or if you ARE!) a particular blogger, food activist, or member of your local community who supports healthy living despite difficult life circumstances and/or unfriendly criticism, let me know! I’m always eager to learn.