On Mother's Day, while eating strawberries out of the garden with my daughter Elia, I was reflecting on all the mamas — fierce, passionate, powerful — who are working to create a healthy food system.
As we know from a compelling body of science, pesticides are particularly bad for kids. Growing minds and bodies are more susceptible to chemical inputs and, relative to their size, kids eat, breathe and drink much more than adults. Pesticide residues can be found on our produce (even after washing it) and, particularly in agricultural communities, these chemicals can be found in the air, water and dust.
With a number of childhood disorders and diseases on the rise, including cancers, many of us are asking the critical question: why are we still growing food with chemicals that undermine the health of our children?
It's not just mothers, or even parents, driving the movement for a healthy food system. Our collective work is strongest when people with diverse perspectives, experiences and expertise are involved. But motherhood can be a powerful motivator. And some mamas are tackling this pesticide problem head on.
Here are just a few of the mamas working for much needed change:
Kate Mendenhall is Managing Director of the Iowa Organic Association. She recently moved back to the state after working for years on food and farming issues as the Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association in New York. With her husband and two kids, Kate is now planning to run a farm. And she's already working hard to promote sustainable, healthy agriculture in Iowa through policy, education and community building. Kate has been a tireless advocate in partnership with PAN, working to address the problem of pesticide drift in Iowa. She's looking out for all of our families by working to make farming both profitable and healthy.
Valerie Gorospe is an incredible community organizer based in Delano, California, working with the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. Continuing the legacy of her mother, Teresa De Anda, Valerie is a powerful, fearless advocate for California farmworkers and rural families threatened by exposure to health-harming pesticides. She's been a critical voice in shaping many statewide policies.
- Medha Chandra — mother of two — heads up PAN's Healthy Schools campaign, working to keep pesticides away from schoolkids. She's also our liaison with PAN International partners, collaborating across borders to get highly hazardous pesticides out of rotation around the world. Medha brings her smarts and passion to protecting children near and far.
Getting our food system off the pesticide treadmill will be no small feat, but it's definitely possible — especially with powerhouse moms like Kate, Valerie and Medha making it happen. They give me hope.