Food Accessibility

Food Accessibility with Victor Bradley, Jr and Mark Cerkvenik

This week, we sat down with Victor Bradley Jr. and Mark Cervenik about food accessibility.

Victor has over 30 years of experience as an educator in elementary and early childhood settings serving various communities in Boston MA which includes 20+ years of diversity training. He brings a deep commitment to social justice into the educational classroom setting through extensive experience with history, anti-bias, and anti-racist curriculum development and implementation from pre-K through 8th grade.

Mark was born and raised on the southwest side of Chicago and worked in healthcare for nearly 40 years. During his time in healthcare, he noticed the many patients who were dealing with chronic illnesses in addition to experiencing his own health issues and those of his family and close friends. In addition to being licensed by PCRM as a Food For Life Instructor, Mark provides coaching for individuals and couples on transitioning to a sustainable, plant-based diet as well as workshops and workplace seminars on a variety of health-related topics.

What Issues Do You Commonly See With the People You Work With?

Mark: The most common issues I’m seeing for people that come to me these days are weight loss issues. Some people have been struggling with their weight their entire lives and have been yoyo dieters.They hear that the impact of a whole food plant-based diet can be very positive. It really allows them to drop the whole idea of dieting and move towards a healthy lifestyle.

And despite dieting, I kept putting weight on, my cholesterol was out of control and my blood pressure was going up. And then with the loss of my parents and an aunt and uncle, and then all my friends were all pushing about the same age,I just turned 60 in December, it was time to put the breaks on. So, I guess the vast majority of people come to me based on, not only my professional experience and my personal story, but also on how we just continue to see lots and lots of sick people and people just don’t get better. Through the healthcare system, they only get their symptoms treated.

Victor: In the classroom, parents really struggled with sending meals in for their children. The commercialization of children’s foods and how parents feel like they have to buy into yogurts with Disney characters and cheese sticks and that dairy is the most important thing to put in your child’s body has been a real challenge. A lot of schools don’t allow peanut butter, so that’s not an option. Parents really struggle with this. So, I could actively help them think about that and have them try things with their children. For a more plant-based diet, try making a salad and putting different things in it – things that are fun.

I watched sad moments where children would come in with healthier lunches and see other kids with the commercialized yogurts and things, and then change. I knew this child whose parents grew up in China. They would make her these beautiful lunches that were plant-based. She’d see everybody else was not eating that food and she was getting frustrated. So, she was asking for the things she was seeing. It was really hard. I actually went to her house. We had home visits at this particular school and they fed me when I came. I made a big point of saying that the food was delicious. I remember asking her why her lunch was changing. She said, “well, I wanna have what they have”. It’s a real challenge in the classroom with how things are set up and how parents feel like they have to feed their children certain foods because they’re marketed to children.

How Have Children’s Views on Nutrition Changed Over the Years?

Victor: I think they’re noticing the trends. Many are noticing that everyone’s having plant-based food and some of it’s fake, some of it’s not real. So they’re even noticing that there’s real plant-based and then there’s the commercialized version. So that’s what I find that children growing up now notice. They’re very much more suspicious of the government and suspicious of things, especially having the prior president that we had.

I think children are really noticing that they have to read all the fine print and they have to do all the research. They have access to the internet. They have access to social media. They know that what is said may not always be true.

Mark: At the end of the day, it’s the parents that are gonna make the decision with the children. Giving your child choices versus running through the drive through. It just scares me to think about the damage that those simple little choices are making for their children and how it influences their health.

We’re gonna build on the bright spots and we’re gonna build things on a positive foundation. What’s gonna save our butts is first of all, getting ourselves healthy and getting off this cycle of chronic illness, more pills, and more hospitalizations. Eating healthy, eating a plant-based diet is what’s gonna get us healthy. It’s those little changes and maybe this is all part of the bigger picture.

Enjoy our complete interview by CLICKING HERE!!.

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