There’s a very important update to my new book Food Babe Family that I want to share with you.
It was really devastating to me.
I had a hard time grappling with it.
It kept me up at night.
It made me angry…
But it also fired up my passion and reminded me why I do this work.
I wrote this blog post so you’d know what happened and learn from it just like I did.
About one year ago, my daughter Harley was getting ready to start school and I knew they had Pizza Fridays with delivery from Domino’s…
As a food activist, author, and investigator of what’s in our food, I knew the ingredients in Domino’s are not something I wanted going into my daughter’s body every week.
At the same time, I didn’t want her to miss out on having Pizza Fridays with all the other children.
So, I decided to ask for a change. At the orientation meeting, in front of all the other parents, I asked if there was an opportunity to change pizza places. I explained how Domino’s contains questionable ingredients…including TBHQ that affects children’s immune systems. I was hoping this would get their attention, because parents will do anything to keep their kids from getting sick. right?
But Immediately – I felt tension in the air. The consensus was that they wanted to keep Domino’s.
I felt defeated – but I didn’t give up. I emailed the school my research on Domino’s ingredients and made a case for change. I reached out to our favorite pizza place in Charlotte which uses organic ingredients and olive oil. I explained the whole situation to the owner, and she agreed to match Domino’s prices with free delivery.
Harley’s school agreed to change, and they transitioned to local organic pizza every Friday!
When this happened, I was over the moon! Every Friday, the kids at her school enjoyed organic pizza made with organic wheat, organic tomato sauce, organic cheese and olive oil for the entire school year.
At the time I thought…THIS is how you make a change in our schools! One small change at a time. One product, one food, at a time. Pick the worst food in your school and make a case for change. You may need to negotiate prices and do some footwork, but it is so worth it.
But not so fast!
Now it’s the new school year… and this is when everything came crashing down.
A few weeks back, I wrote a letter to the school headmaster and to the owner of the local organic pizza chain to let them know I shared the story about Pizza Friday in my new book, and also to thank them for continuing to serve children healthier ingredients on Pizza Friday.
The first Pizza Friday of the school year was organic, but then the next week as I was dropping my daughter off at school I was stopped by the headmaster. I rolled down my car window and she said…
“I just want to let you know that we will be switching back to Domino’s for Pizza Friday”.
I was shocked. I asked what felt like a million questions…
My first question was “Why?”
And she said something along the lines of having trouble scheduling and that it would be easier to just do Domino’s.
Then I asked “But why Domino’s? There are pizza chains with better ingredients than Domino’s”.
She abruptly said that this was their decision, and they just made it.
I was devastated and literally did not leave the school parking lot before calling the owner of my local organic pizza place to ask what was going on.
The owner told me that they had given the school over a 50% discount last year and to continue, they would need to increase the costs by a few dollars a pie.
As soon as I got home, I emailed the headmaster and asked her to wait before sending an announcement to all of the parents about Pizza Friday, because I had a proposal for her and wanted to meet.
She immediately wrote me back and said:
“We are moving on to Domino’s. I know that some people may not like this decision, but then they are not required to purchase. It is difficult to keep everyone happy.I will be sending out the email shortly.”
Time was of the essence, so I replied back by email that the organic pizza chain would raise their prices by just a few dollars, but that I would cover this in a donation to the school.
This way it would be the same price as last year and we wouldn’t have to change anything about Pizza Friday.
Problem solved, right?
I was anxiously waiting to hear back from her, but a few hours later…
The headmaster wrote a letter to the entire school telling them that they would be switching back to Domino’s on Pizza Friday.
I couldn’t believe this was happening.
I remember spiraling the entire day after I got this email. Everything that I planned to get done that day didn’t happen. I was so up in arms about it.
Not only did I take it personally because I had spent the time to research and make the case for this change…But also as a parent who cares deeply about all the kid’s bodies at school. No one should be eating these ingredients, especially our children!
I wasn’t given the opportunity to make this right even though I was willing to do it, and this was just so upsetting to me.
I immediately wrote back to the school and asked why they wouldn’t accept my donation. They never explained why.
The next morning I stopped the headmaster at the car line so that I could further explain my position. I reassured her that the organic pizza place was good with the scheduling and that I’d be covering the extra cost. I wanted my donation to be anonymous.
She replied that they wouldn’t switch back and forth. And they were just not going to do it. She really was adamant about the decision.
I let her know that Kraft told me “No” five or six times before they removed artificial food dyes from their mac and cheese, and that I wouldn’t give up.
This fight is not over and this story will be continued.
This whole experience ignited my passion for what we’re doing at Food Babe and why I became a food activist.
I became an activist because all I want in this world is for kids not to feel like I did when I was little.
My parents and I didn’t know the truth about our food when I was a child. I ate the “typical American diet” that all of my friends were eating…McDonalds, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Cheetos, and Coca-Cola... and I felt AWFUL.
There are more than 30 Pizza Fridays in the school year. That’s more than 30 times that children will be eating pizza doused with Roundup weedkiller, GMO soybean oil, TBHQ that affects the immune system, and many more controversial ingredients. I think that’s too many times. Way too many.
This may not seem like a big deal to some… but perhaps that’s because they don’t know the truth about Domino’s pizza.
The next thing I did was I sent a letter to all the parents so they could see the ingredients in Domino’s and decide for themselves if this what they wanted their children eating every Friday.
Since my daughter would no longer be participating in Pizza Friday, I also armed them with the knowledge of what we were going to be doing as a family to pack homemade pizza for her lunch on Fridays instead.
I still had to break the news to my daughter…
During this whole process, I was really concerned about what she would do or think when I told her what had happened.
Of course she’s been part of this conversation for so long and was already aware of what the ingredients were in Domino’s, so I didn’t really have to say that much.
While she was in the bath one night, I causally mentioned, “I think your school is changing to Domino’s for Pizza Friday”.
She just looked at me and said, “Mom, why don’t you just send me pizza. I would love green peppers, red peppers and olives on it, please.”
I said okay and just kind of left the room in shock and disbelief. I thought to myself, she doesn’t care where it’s from. She just wants Pizza. And so that next Friday I made her the homemade pizza she wanted, and put it in a little warming pack for her lunch.
When I picked her up from school I asked her, “How was Pizza Friday?” And she said, “Mom, it was so amazing”. So I asked, “What it was like? Was it better than the local place?” And she said yes.
I felt like a hero that day.
Throughout this nightmare, I kept looking for the silver lining.
What is this experience teaching me? I kept asking myself.
Harley is one of the few children in her school not eating Domino’s on Pizza Friday.
What is that teaching her? What is that showing her? What is she learning from that resilience? And why?
If we’re going to live in this over-processed world, surrounded by all of the McDonald’s and Burger Kings and Domino’s of the world, we need to know how to navigate these situations.
I’m teaching her those skills, and she’s building that muscle to stand up and be different.
This might be the greatest gift that I give to my daughter!
And I want to give this gift to every family across the country.
Food Babe Family arms you with the tools you and your family need to stand up to the Big Food industry.
You don’t have to succumb to the pressures of society and fall for B.S. marketing campaigns targeting you into eating toxic ingredients.
And don’t EVER feel like your children are missing out when they aren’t eating the processed food that everyone else around them is eating.
They’re not missing out when they’re avoiding chemicals that cause cancer, gut issues, eczema, fatty liver, obesity, and type 2 diabetes!
So stop saying your kids are missing out when they aren’t eating Doritos and Domino’s with their friends. You are protecting them from dangerous chemicals, which is your greatest job as a parent. You could be saving their life!
This experience also taught me that we can’t give up…
Even when you think that you’ve got something changed, you can’t just sit back and believe it’s a done deal.
I’ve found this out the hard way so many times, and I should have known better. I’ve petitioned companies like Kellogg’s who said they were going to remove artificial food dyes from their cereals. They announced it all over the news, but then they didn’t do it. M&M’s did the same thing! Then General Mills removed the dyes from Trix cereal, only to put them back in the following year! It’s horrible.
It’s these types of situations that ignite my passion and make me realize my work so important to continue going.
I know these are little gifts from God, that tell me that I’m here for a reason. I’m need to keep going. I need to continue to do this work. I can’t stop.
Even though the story I wrote about kicking Domino’s to the curb for the introduction to Food Babe Family is crushed (and I already have to update the book!) I hope that this situation inspires parents to keep going even when they face adversity.
Raising my kids on real food has never been an easy feat. I’m constantly bombarded with everyday situations that expose my kids to an industrial food system that is making so many children and adults sick today.
Every single time we leave the house, there’s some overly processed junk food available. Whether it’s at a birthday party, sporting event, playground, restaurant, you name it. It’s everywhere. Ultra processed foods made with chemicals that serve no nutritional purpose in the body.
This is why I wrote Food Babe Family. I want to let everyone know there’s another way to feed our kids. Together we can make a change and choose better. We can teach our kids the truth about food and be responsible for their health. My mother didn’t know the truth about food, but once you know better, you do better.
Food Babe Family is now available everywhere books are sold.
I can’t wait for you to get this book in your hands. If you know anyone who needs it too, please share this with them!
P.S. If you want to hear more about this story, watch the replay of the Instagram Live I did with pediatrician Dr. Ana-Maria Temple last night right here: