Activist By Accident Thanks To A Burger.

I thought I would share this essay I wrote as we celebrate the 1996 McDonalds Hamburger’s 15th Birthday!!

Goodness — 15 years old — where has all the time gone!!

I am a seasoned single mom with two in college. While many might be wondering what to make their child for lunch tomorrow  I am curious when I might see my kids again. It’s definitely a different mindset.

Back in my in the trenches days I was a very particular and inquisitive mom. I strived to match my parenting to my sensibilities. Often those ideas were not like the moms around me. Was I a mom on a mission ? Perhaps I was! When I saved a McDonalds hamburger in a cupboard for a year. I had no idea that an image of it would become an internet sensation. For me, I just thought it would be a perfect prop for the discussions I wanted to have with other parents.

When I think of myself as an activist I could let the burger do the talking. Sure, it sits in it’s oh McDonalds hamburger glory. Yes, it looks exactly like the day I bought it. My mission surrounding the burger was really to get a conversation going. I’d ask my parents what are we actually eating? Why are these being sold around the world? What do we call food? When did food become entertainment or a treat? Are we addicted? Where is the nutrition? I wondered if we need a hotline to sway us from the convenience of drive thru. I asked what if we could get back to cooking, eating seasonally, shopping for food locally, sharing the evening meal as a family?

I started my own inquiry surrounding these very issues when mine were little. I nursed, used cloth diapers, made my own baby food and cooked scratch. Folks thought I was weird. In my community I decided to teach these concepts to others. This was my determination. What I was learning had to be useful to others. I started a workshop. We got uncomfortable together. Some parents were shocked and angry when they realized mainstream food sources were not all they seemed to be. When my parents made changes they noticed remarkable differences in their children’s behavior and attention at school and home. The kids were sick less when they ate well. Many parents weaned from diet soda addictions after learning about methanol poisoning. They began to plan weekly menu’s, grocery shop in the produce department, make homemade soups and eat vegetables! They believed they had a choice in the matter. I so loved this about my role as a community educator.

When the image of my 1996 McDonalds Hamburger went viral on the internet in 2008, it hit 196 countries. The post got a remarkable volume of hits!! I got phone calls from around the world. I got yelled at. I was applauded. I admit that I was not prepared for the devotion to the iconic golden arch mentality. I found it horrifying. I also was not prepared to be criticized for being me or for a simple sharing. Folks – it’s a picture of a burger for gosh sakes. The experience truly opened my eyes to popular culture and the larger issue surrounding fast food. I was invited at one point to tour and speak to this topic. I thought my goodness what would it be like to shut this thing known as fast food down? I admit I found that remarkably exciting. While that opportunity didn’t realize I did re-engage myself into community education. I feel at a grass roots level somehow I have had impact.

Since the above essay was written I am happy to say I am very honored to be part of a terrific group of woman speakers in the In Woman We Trust Speakers Bureau. Consider my activism and my story for your next event.

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