By Jason Stemm (@NYCubsFan)
At CRT/tanaka, we have a word, whatcanbe, which guides us in imagining the possibilities for ourselves and our clients. It is both a creative process and a cultural ethos that is ingrained across offices and practice areas. During a recent agency-wide retreat, we were asked to articulate our whatcanbe and share it with others. I wrote “to help the world eat better” which for me starts at home, but extends throughout my work and my community.
There are two ways to look at eating better. One is to think of eating healthier. The other is to consider the quality of the food we eat. This could be dining at 3 star Michelin restaurants, or enjoying the comforts of a home cooked meal prepared with grass-fed meat, farm fresh eggs or aged balsamico from Modena. For me they collided during the retreat. It began with a phone call from Italy about the tragic news of a car accident in California that claimed the life of one friend and injured another from The Rogers Collection. Also during the retreat, I was called upon to administer the Heimlich to a colleague who is an RD and a partner in educating consumers and influencers about healthy eating for over 12 years.
My friend Taylor was a food importer who sought out small, family producers that strive for the highest quality of food from Prosciutto di Parma to Sicilian olive oil. He influenced countless chefs and retailers, evolving the palate of American consumers to appreciate the quality of fine foods. I have been fortunate to work with clients that share this passion, and have worked to educate everyone on the value of knowing more about the food you chose to consume. When you have a quality product, an educated consumer is your best customer.
Another quality that many of our food clients have is nutritional value. Blueberries, avocados or even maple syrup are all things we can proudly encourage people to consume more of. We are careful not to overstate claims, or overpromise results, but encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables and educating them why it is important has been a cornerstone of many of our communications programs.
Recently there has been greater attention to these issues, as obesity rates rise, and its burden on healthcare costs grows. Outside of client work, I also serve as president of the International Foodservice Editorial Council. We will be holding our annual conference in Washington, DC next week, and looking at food policies and how they will shape our future. I am proud to have secured Sam Kass as our keynote speaker. As Senior Food Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives at the White House, he has been an integral player in the Let’s Move campaign, and I look forward to hearing more about recent announcements of partnerships with major restaurant groups to work toward healthier offerings to diners.
Of course it is important to walk the walk, which the White House chefs are doing. For me it starts at home with my 2 year old daughter. She has an unusual passion for broccoli and pomegranate seeds and has always been a good eater. She has gone in and out of phases with certain foods, but always included fruits and vegetables in every meal. We have found a pre-school for her that has its own chef who prepares all natural meals for children, so I know even when she is out of our sight, she is being exposed to good food. I was also excited to see New York City’s Mayor in my borough handing out apples for the city’s first Food Day.
Eating better isn’t about eliminating everything that tastes good, but rather knowing more about the foods you eat and understanding its impact on your health and wellbeing. There are so many quick fixes and snake oils out there that try to simplify the equation to the lowest common denominator, but it robs us of a world that I find entirely enjoyable. Helping the world to eat better will lead us all to a better, brighter future full of whatcanbe.