6 Million Seeds Year (so far) in Review

We started the 6 Million Seeds Project a year ago. We have grown from a tiny seed of an idea to a bit of sprout now. We are starting to get noticed as we take root. The project has been completely exhilarating. So, I want to give you, our community, a recap of our progress over the year! We have good news to share!

As you probably already know, the 6 Million Seeds project comprises three parts:

  • Part 1 – Direct Education for children.
  • Part 2 – The 6 Million Seeds podcast.
  • Part 3 – Create collaboration and build a coalition so the project can be as impactful as possible to support the 6 Million Seeds Revolutionary Decade of Child Nutrition.

I like to think of the three parts like vines that wrap around and support each other, separate but related, like those big thick woody lianas in a rain forest that grow from the earth towards the sky. The lianas come from the same root, and the same DNA, and yet, reach in different directions. Each liana climbs and bears fruit on its own, and captures water and sunlight along with the other two. This contributes to a tremendous fruit-bearing canopy. Residents of the forest just need to come, pick, and eat.

There has been a lot of growth in one year! This is a hefty recap of the last 12 months activity.

Part 1 Educating Children

We launched the 6 Million Seeds child education efforts. In addition, we continue to look for youth groups open to nutrition-focused health education.

  • This past summer, we worked two days per week with the Boys and Girls Club in Lake County, Illinois. We also worked with a small summer camp in Waukegan, IL, and the Brookwood School District in the Chicago south suburbs. We delivered the plant-based nutrition message to about 250 kids between 10 and 16 years old during the two months of summer vacation.
  • At the Boys and Girls Club, we collaborated with a dedicated urban gardener and a non-profit that provides gardening starts and supplies. They developed a garden which the children and staff tended. We used the garden produce in the cooking classes as much as possible. The kids loved it!
  • We now have four different curricula we can offer to educational settings! Depending on the situation and circumstances, we can be flexible about what we offer to the kids with whom we work. We can provide the participants with a 2-day, 2-week, 4-week, or 2-semester experience. Additionally, the classes can be “Done-For-You” where a PBNM instructor teaches the classes, or they can be “Do It Yourself” where the facility staff teaches the material with our support. We believe this is a great way to customize the class activities to fit the needs of different groups.

Part 2 Educate Adults

  • We moved into our donated and dedicated podcast studio in March 2022!
  • The 6 Million Seeds podcast launched in January 2022, and it continues! We have published 19 episodes at the time of this writing.
  • Even with 19 episodes done, we are still podcasting novices! Who knew there was so much to learn? As co-hosts, Carrie Bruno and I recently started a podcasting class to increase our skill level.
  • To date, we have spoken about the 6 Million Seeds Project as guests on 7 podcasts hosted by other podcasters, including Chef AJ’s show.

Part 3 Inform the System

  • We continue to promote the Decade of Child Nutrition to like-minded individuals and groups. We currently have about 15 engaged partners in our network! What an honor! We have received support from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, The Esselstyn Foundation, The National Health Association, The Coalition for Healthy School Food, Dr. Michael Klaper, Plant Pure Communities, Chilis On Wheels, Dr. Ana Negrón, and so many others!
  • We are collaborating with the National Health Association to create a kickoff event for the Decade of Child Nutrition this coming December 3-6. This will be a 4-day virtual summit focused on the connection between Children, Food, and Planetary Health. We continue to build all the pieces that go into making a successful summit. We had no idea what all was really involved when I had this idea, so again, steep learning curve. Thankfully, we have someone to guide us and hold us accountable! We already have the framework built, presenters confirmed, and some sponsors in place. We will be getting the promos out soon.  One is included in this month’s newsletter. Save the dates 12/3-12/6 at 9 am and 6 pm CT! We want to see you there (online)!
  • We joined 50by40.org, a coalition working to increase human health, decrease animal-based food consumption, and increase climate change action and planetary health. Our network has grown exponentially since we became members of this particular coalition.
  • We have connected with the Physicians Association for Nutrition (PAN) about our Summit in December. Our contact with them has been very positive. One of their staff, Dr. Tami Turner, RD, Ph.D., will speak at our Summit in December. 
  • We held a collaborative event with Plant Pure Communities on June 8. You Are What You Eat – The Impact of Food on Kids’ Mental Health event was a free online session on how food affects children’s mental health and behavior.
  • We created a module on Healthy Childhood Nutrition for the Plant Pure Communities Teachables platform. You can find it here: https://learn.plantpurecommunities.org/p/healthy-childhood-nutrition .
  • We held a picnic in July!! Yay!! A real gathering with real food and real people in huggable nearness!! Two years in the making, we had great food, played a game or two, and even received some donations.
  • We held a small watch party with a group of Meryl’s nurse friends for the documentary, “They’re Trying To Kill Us.” The attendees were blown away by the hidden connections between politics, profit, food systems, and public health.
  • We attended the National Health Association’s 2022 Conference in Ohio, further growing our network.
  • We attended PlantStrong with Rip Esselstyn’s group on Black Mountain, North Carolina.
  • We plan to attend the Center for Nutrition Studies Retreat in Tucson, AZ, at the end of October.
  • Meryl gave input to the Good Food Dialogues Virtual Gathering: Faith Dialogue Informing the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.
  • We have had more donations this year than ever before! Thanks so much to all those who contributed monetary and in-kind support. Because of you, we were able to do far more this year to spread the news about the intersection of food, health, animal welfare, and planetary stewardship. We couldn’t do the work without you!

Other amazing stuff!

  • Meryl became a Food For Life Instructor this past December!
  • We held three online events with guests
    • Take Back Your Health with Chef AJ, Glen Merzer, and Dr. Michael Klaper interview panel and discussion
    • You Are What You Eat, The Impact of Food on Kids’ Mental Health with Dr. Elizabeth Winings, Dr. Antonia Demas, and Ms. Ariel Demas
    • Power Up Your Kids with Jane and Ann Esselstyn, cooking demos, discussion, and Q&A
  • We held two online weight loss information sessions led by our board members
  • Our Board members gave virtual presentations at two libraries and provided food for a domestic violence shelter.
  • We are working with The Salient Lifestyle Center to create and deliver three educational programs in person in Elgin, IL.
  • We redesigned our logo!

Carrie Bruno and Meryl have been guests on other podcast shows

We have had three articles on food systems and child nutrition published by other organizations

  • T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies website
  • Sierra Club Newsletter
  • Kenosha News

Ahh, as for the future! Next year already looks so promising! 

  • Our network is expanding. Every few days, we meet another individual or group with a similar point of view and mission. That means every month, we have new contacts and opportunities to amplify the message of the importance of childhood nutrition.
  • We have submitted a manuscript to a journal for publication. Of course, there are no guarantees that the journal will accept our submission. Either way, the experience has been invaluable.
  • We have started conversations with leaders of several national nursing organizations on healthy eating for health care professionals and their patients.
  • We will be planning the first meeting of the 6 Million Seeds Coalition in early 2023 and the 2nd 6 Million Seeds Child Nutrition Summit.

This is indeed just the beginning! Stay in touch for more developments. The three parts of the project are only growing and getting stronger. Our goal is to significantly decrease childhood illnesses like obesity, diabetes, and cancers, reduce animal suffering and achieve net-zero greenhouse gas production by 2040. Please donate here to support the work and keep the message moving locally, regionally, and nationally. 

In deepest gratitude for the opportunity to serve in this way, Meryl

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