Improving lives and inspiring others is at the heart of everything we do. Our new podcast is here to encourage mindful, vibrant living, with plenty of tips, interviews, and information to keep you healthy along the way.

iTunes Google Play SoundCloud

Ep 18: Fixing Our Food System with Author Robyn O'Brien ("The Unhealthy Truth")

Hosted by: MegaFood | Podcast



Ep 18: Fixing Our Food System with Author Robyn O'Brien ("The Unhealthy Truth")

runtime: 41:18


Ep 18: Fixing Our Food System with Author Robyn O'Brien ("The Unhealthy Truth")

Robyn O’Brien, food activist and author of “The Unhealthy Truth” joins our resident naturopath, Erin Stokes, for a discussion on our nation’s broken food system. She shares what’s happened to food, how things got this way, AND what we can do to set our food system back on track. If the health, nutrition and safety of your family is important to you, you’re going to want to listen to this.


A former financial and food industry analyst, Robyn O’Brien triggered an allergic reaction in the food industry when she asked: “Are we allergic to food or what’s been done to it?” Called “food’s Erin Brockovich” by Bloomberg and the New York Times, Robyn has helped lead a food awakening among consumers, corporations and political leaders for over a decade, and counting. For more from Robyn, visit her website,


I often will say courage is contagious. When one person steps forward and moves to make a change or call out some injustice, it inspires other people to do the same. -Robyn O'Brien

Fear is not a catalyzing emotion for a long period of time. Yet, love is rocket fuel. It is an incredible force, an expansive energy, and it drives remarkable change. -Robyn O'Brien

[00:00] [background music]

Announcer: [00:00] The statements in this podcast have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

In today's special episode, naturopathic doctor, Erin Stokes, sits with Robyn O'Brien, former data analyst turned food activist, to discuss the nutritional crisis of the American population.

These two experts, who also happen to be moms, share the big picture of what's happening to our food, how things got this way, how it's affecting you, and what you can do to set our food system back on a course to promote the health, nutrition, and safety of your family. It may be a heavy topic, but it's an incredibly easy listen that I really enjoyed. I hope you do too.

Abigail: [00:42] Hey, Killeen.

Killeen: [00:42] Hey, Abby. How are you?

Abigail: [00:44] I'm doing pretty well. How are you?

Killeen: [00:46] I'm good. Thank you.

Abigail: [00:48] I say pretty well, but I've actually got this weighty topic on my mind. It's something, no surprise here, we've touched on before in that supplement show, and that's this nutritional crisis that we're facing. I think there's the big, obvious problems, issues with famine, food deserts, and certainly poverty.

There's also other aspects with nutritional crisis that relates to the US population. It's things like, regardless of income or access to food, we're just not eating nutritionally. Even those that have the access and ability to get healthy whole foods aren't. They're still having this nutritional crisis as well. They're finding themselves in their own self-made food desert.

Killeen: [01:30] You're completely right on on that point. This brings us right into what we're going to talk about today or rather what a few experts are going to talk about today. People are in various stages of awakening when it comes to the crisis that you're talking about, the idea that even if we think we're eating healthy, we could really be missing out on some crucial nutrients.

Maybe some of the problems that we're facing could be a little bit easier to solve if we just realized what we weren't getting in our diet. Regardless of where somebody falls in this stage of awakening, whether we're super aware or just maybe starting to be a little bit interested in the idea that we could take charge of this nutritional crisis that we're facing as a population, no matter what, our health is at stake.

For those that are becoming privy to the situation who either want to know because they're really mad about it and they feel like they've been duped, or have to know because their body is having some reaction. Maybe there's a nutrient deficiency that is causing a problem that is making someone say, "What is going on?! What do I need to do to start to feel better?"

It's still hard to distinguish the messaging that we're hearing, the hype from the truth. What can we believe? Even when it comes down to supplements, there's people on both sides of the spectrum, people saying supplements are completely necessary, and then people who are saying I don't think they're really worth anything.

We've had a lot of talks about this, and that's why we're having this conversation today. We're going to get a little deeper into it. It's not going to be between you and me. Any guesses who we're going to bring on?

Abigail: [03:08] I was just thinking I fall earlier on in the spectrum. I'm aware of this, but I'm not quite sure what I can do. I do know somebody who this issue is very near and dear to her heart. It's someone we've had on the show before. I'm thinking we can give Dr. Erin Stokes a call. How about you?

Killeen: [03:27] Yes. Once again, you're right on there. We had an idea in planning this podcast that we would talk to Dr. Erin Stokes. To take it a step forward, we're also going to bring on a very important figure when it comes to this crisis that we face. I'm speaking about Robyn O'Brien.

Abigail: [03:52] Oh yay!

Killeen: [03:53] Some of our listeners may have heard of Robyn, some may have not. Either way, here's the scoop on Robyn. She was a former analyst, so she's got this super analytical mind. She had her food awakening when one of her children developed a food allergy.

She began to ask the question what is being done to our food. What's going on here? Why are these allergies just coming out of the blue and so prevalent? What is going on? She just couldn't leave that alone. Fast forward several years, she now leads a nonprofit. She's a bestselling author.

She's a public speaker. She has devoted her life to figuring out what's up with food and what we can do about it. She's got a book out called "The Unhealthy Truth." I love this. She has been quoted to be food's Erin Brockovich as far as being an activist. That kind of speaks to who Robyn is.

Abigail: [04:52] I love that.

Killeen: [04:53] Yeah. She is one passionate woman. Without further ado, here's the bonus here. You and I, we get to sit back now and listen because we had Dr. Stokes and Robyn O'Brien get together and have a discussion on the nutritional crisis we're facing. We can just sit with our listeners and enjoy. You ready?

Abigail: [05:14] I'm very excited. I think we're going to learn a lot.

Killeen: [05:16] All right. Here we go.

Erin Stokes: [05:20] Robyn, I'm so happy to have the opportunity to sit down and talk with you today about the nutritional crisis in our country and our food system. I think it's always helpful for our listeners to get some historical perspective. How do you think that we go here?

Robyn O'Brien: [05:39] I did some work with Jamie Oliver, gosh, probably five years ago. He said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said, "We've inherited a broken food system that took decades to build, so we're not going to be able to fix it in one, two, or three years."

We are inheriting a problem that was built over 50, 60, 70 years. What I often say is this food system that we've inherited from the 20th century, it doesn't work for 21st century families, period. Now it's up to us to design a better one, a smarter one, and one that works better for families who are confronting a lot of the challenges that I know you see in your work every day, that I see in my work every day.

Whether we're talking about food allergies, or diabetes, or obesity, or cancer, or autism, or food sensitivities, there are so many conditions and chronic diseases that are now impacting our families. It has a lot of people asking why, what's changed, and what can I do to try to take control of what can feel like a very out of control situation.

Erin: [06:49] I love that quote by Jamie Oliver. We have inherited this broken food system that's developed over decades. Can you back us up to some of the decisions that were made, or some of the key points that happened that led us to where we are today? Whether that's focused around convenience, or profitability of the food system.

Just understanding a little background I think helps us figure out how to go forward.

Robyn: [07:21] I am extremely lucky that I have a grandmother who is 106 years old. She is in Louisiana. She is absolutely the definition of a steel magnolia. She raised four boys. She's incredibly smart. In my conversations with her, when she was a young mother raising these boys, food was so precious.

We had the victory gardens during World War II. Every single piece of food that was put on that plate was valued for everything that went into producing it. Here we are two generations later and we've completely lost, we've divorced ourselves from the value of the food.

With my grandmother, when we would go to her house when we were little kids, whatever she would put on the table she said, "Whatever you put on that plate, you're eating it. If you don't eat it, you're having it for breakfast the next morning."

As kids, we quickly learned that in her house, you only took what you were going to eat. There was no food waste at all. Yet, here we are two generations later and 40 percent of the food that we produce, not only in the United States but globally, is wasted and thrown away. We are completely mismanaging the natural resources that we have.

If you step back from that you have to say, why? You look at a lot of the policy, a lot of the legislation that has been introduced in the last 50 years    whether we're talking about food regulation, or things generally recognized as safe, all of a sudden, it enabled a processing of our food supply for convenience, for refrigeration.

Originally a lot of the motives and incentives that were in place were truly good ones to try to offer more food to more people, more of the time. Who wouldn't want to do that? However, what we're realizing now is that came with a downside and came with a risk. Probably the most obvious was pumping a bunch of artificial ingredients and food additives into the food system.

Now I had worked prior to having kids as an analyst on Wall Street, and was on a team that managed $20 billion in assets. I was the only woman on the team, so the guys said, "You're going to cover the food industry." In the early years of my career, I spent a lot of time studying these business models.

It was crystal clear why they took the real ingredients out and replaced them with these artificial ingredients. It drove profitability and it helped drive margins. At the time, however, I never thought to ask, wait a minute, what are all these doing in combination to my health, the health of a child, or the health of somebody with diabetes, cancer, or food allergies?

As I stepped back from that I thought there have been a lot of changes introduced in the last 20 or 30 years. If you look at when high fructose corn syrup was universally embraced, it was the early 1980's. On the same day Coke and Pepsi announced that they were going to switch out sugar and replace it with high fructose corn syrup. That was 100 percent a profitability and margin based decision.

From there, we had artificial colors that were introduced. Then, in the mid 1990s, probably one of the most seismic changes to happen to agriculture in our country was the introduction of genetically engineered crops.

Then with that, companies that were selling all of these pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides could suddenly use these genetically engineered seeds, which had been engineered to withstand higher doses of the herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides. As a business model for a chemical company, it's brilliant, because suddenly these seeds can tolerate higher doses. You can sell more of your chemicals.

Revenue goes up. Shareholders are happy. The flip side of that is what was that doing, not only to the health of the consumer that suddenly now is eating these genetically engineered seeds that are now being treated with larger doses of herbicides and insecticides, but also, what is it doing to our soil?

Here we are 20 years into this experiment, realizing that there may very well may be these unintended consequences. It's easy for somebody to say, "Oh, my gosh, this is so big. This is just such a tsunami of bad news." You can look at it that way. However, I choose to look at it as this is an incredible opportunity to come in and make things better.

We have a generation of children that has earned this title of Generation Rx because of all of these diagnoses, because of all these chronic conditions, because of these chronic illnesses. What we are seeing in the marketplace, which I simply love, are these companies that are responding to consumer demand. People will say, "What about policy? What about legislation?"

Absolutely, I would love to see policy enacted that is very proactive and protecting the health of children. However, in the United States policy usually follows the money. To demonstrate that in the marketplace is where anyone, anywhere can take action now.

The more that we can show the success in the marketplace with these products that are free from GMOs, free from glyphosate, free from artificial colors, or free from artificial growth hormones. The more we show growth and success in the marketplace, the more policy will follow the money. That's where I think it gets really exciting, because that means all of us can participate.

Everyone can play a role in helping to recreate and build a better food system.

Erin: [12:55] Absolutely agree. We are all consumers, so we can all make a change in how we purchase and what we bring into our homes. Robyn, first of all, I'd like to meet your grandmother. She sounds like an amazing lady.

Robyn: [13:12] I know.

Erin: [13:12] I love that quote of food is precious. I think that it's been treated in a way that's not precious as much as being a commodity. With your business background and being able to see this was done in a way that was all about convenience and profitability in really valuing that over health and wellness.

I do think that the tide is turning. It feels like things are changing. For people out there that are trying to figure out, navigating this world of food, and even as we look into a world of supplements, how do you see a way that people can decide who they can trust?

Robyn: [13:57] If you think back to the '80s and this calories in, calories out model, and how as a generation, everything was diet, diet, diet. It was SnackWells and diet sodas. Suddenly, it was just magic. You could eat all of these foods but they didn't have the calories. Instead, they were packed with all of these artificial ingredients, all of these synthetic chemicals.

I completely participated in that. I used to give up Diet Coke for Lent every year because I was so completely addicted to it. It was the thing that I loved the most. I thought this is a real sacrifice. I'd give it up every year for Lent, which is crazy. That's how addicted I was.

I was so far removed from the nutrient conversation around food. It was simply about the calories, and calorie in, calorie out. That's not all equal when you're talking about the calories that you might get from an avocado or broccoli versus the calories you're going to get from a Twinkie or a soda.

On the one side, you have this avocado and broccoli that is just so nutrient dense and full of vitamins and minerals. On the other side, you've got these calories that are just completely empty, whether it's a can of soda or a Twinkie.

As I was starting to think through that I thought, wow, there's this whole education that we really didn't get as consumers, and this obsession around everything diet, this obsession around calorie in, calorie out, and all of the conversations around weight loss.

What we lost sight of was the conversation around nutrient density. What's so much more important to me as a mom is to teach the kids the nutrient value of food rather than the caloric value of food. Growing up, all we were taught was the caloric value of food.

That's the opportunity that we see now in front of us. You see parents really stepping up and responding to that. Thankfully, we have the Internet. We have these apps. We have all of these websites and resources that can provide a bunch of information, show us fun ways to cook.

We've got all these amazing friends on Instagram that are constantly inspiring us with these incredible posts that they share all the time. Again, it gets back to that tsunami feeling of, "Oh, my gosh, this is so overwhelming. These people look like they've got it all together. I can't even step foot in that room."

One of the things that I emphasize a lot, especially as a mother of four is, don't make the perfect the enemy of the good. It's so important to focus on progress, not perfection. When we were starting out, my entire kitchen was full of artificial ingredients in the cupboard, in the fridge, in absolutely everything.

As I was trying to figure out where do I start, what do I do, I realized I couldn't change everything all at once, but I could do one thing. I started. Month one it was I'm going to get these artificial colors out of the kids' diet. Month two was I want to get these artificial growth hormones out of the dairy that I'm feeding to my kids.

By taking baby steps like that, it enabled me to get moving and get through that paralysis mode that can hit when you're learning all of this and you think, I don't even know where to start. That's really important, to give yourself permission to participate, that this is not about perfection.

Erin: [17:33] I think when people get to that paralysis mode, it's a result of overwhelmed. When we get too much information and too many different things that we feel we need to do, it's a natural instinct to shut down. Doing one step at a time. I was thinking about this lack of education and also this lack of connection to our food.

One of the best ways I think that people can connect to their food is to grow food, is to have a garden. Even that, I think, can be overwhelming to start, but you can start small. You can start with some potted basil, some potted tomatoes and work your way up from that.

I think that as we look at the current generations, the coming generations, it really goes full circle back to your grandmother and her wisdom in those victory gardens that you talked about. I do think that when people have that connection, either in their own garden, you see more schools having gardens and school field trips out to farms. It's just connecting that.

There's nothing like seeing a child pull a carrot out of the ground for the first time ever and have that aha moment.

Robyn: [18:49] I know. I had been so type A. I thought, "You know, I can't do this. I don't know how to do this. I don't want to fail at doing this," when I thought about growing things. I had all these justifications, all these weird excuses about why I wasn't going to grow food.

Then one of the kids came home one day from elementary school with the lima bean in the cup. I thought, "It really can be that simple. Don't make it more complicated than it has to be. Start simple." Like you said, you can start with one pot. It can be done anywhere. My best friend lives in New York City. She has the most amazing garden on the tiniest little patch of an apartment ledge.

Again, it's not making the perfect the enemy of the good. It's doing what you can, where you are, with what you have. The joy that comes from learning as you learn to grow your own food and build a garden is incredible.

What we have learned in the last decade when it comes to growing our own food is so incredibly rewarding. To be able to take my nieces and nephews out into that garden and they get so excited to pick a cucumber or pick some zucchini, then bring it in and cook it or cut it up, there's such complete satisfaction in that.

Again, to give yourself permission to start small, I think, is incredibly important. As parents, when we're teaching our kids how to read, potty train or ride a bike, it does not happen all in one swoop. It takes time.

Erin: [20:20] That's right.

Robyn: [20:20] We give ourselves permission to allow for the process to occur. I think the same thing has to happen here.

Erin: [20:28] In an ideal world, it would be great if we could grow more food and have home gardens. We certainly can do that to the best of each of our abilities in starting simple and small, like you said, and growing from there.

Then we have farmers' markets. There are still going to be those moments where people are out in the grocery store. They're looking at labels. They're looking at their food. They're looking at their supplements. They're just trying to figure out what are the best choices. Are there certain guidelines that you have for people when they're looking at labels?

Robyn: [21:08] Again, with this background of mine from Wall Street, this whole term of due diligence, of really doing your research, I've carried that over into parenting, much to my children's dismay. It has been so incredibly helpful. I think one of the most important things that I like to know when it comes to the companies whose products I'm buying, are they run by parents?

I think about Late July and Nicole, the founding mom of that snack company. Her son has peanut allergy. If you want to buy a product from a company and you're at all worried about peanut allergy, to have a mom at the helm who is right there on the front line with you, navigating all of this.

She literally is building out those products in a way that's safe for her own family with food allergies, so you know that they're going to be safe for yours.

Then I think about, for example, what you guys have done with MegaFood, with the glyphosate free certification. Nobody has done that yet. It is honestly quite shocking to me that MegaFood is the only company that has been bold enough to make that move in a really transparent way.

In both cases, when you pick up either a Late July product or a MegaFood product, it is right in front of your face. When I work with some of these food companies, that's the first thing I say, is the faster you can embrace transparency, the better, because then not only are you being completely up front with your consumer, but the consumer is also able to give you completely direct and honest feedback.

She knows exactly what she's buying and she can navigate around or into that. If you are opaque or cloaked in any way when it comes to trying to slip something in, inevitably what ends up happening is consumers aren't going to buy the product because she cannot be sure that it's safe for her child with food allergies, her mother with diabetes or her dad with cancer.

The faster a company can embrace transparency, the better. A great example of a company that has done this in a really brave way, in my opinion, is Kashi. They basically came forward and said, "There are not enough organic almonds in the United States to meet our demand as a company, much less all the other companies that would want organic almonds."

The supply didn't exist, so they said, "You know, we want it to exist." They've enlisted the help of the consumer by asking consumers to purchase certified transitional products which then help them convert farmers from growing conventional almonds to organic almonds.

I love that model because they don't own it. They want other companies to participate. They are enlisting the consumer as a foot soldier in this movement to drive the food system forward. Most of the consumers are saying, "Tell me what I can do. What can I do?" We always hear, "Oh, vote with your wallet. Vote with your shopping cart."

We do that, but I think for most consumers, they know that there's more that they can do. They're not necessarily going to reach out to their local Congressman. They're not necessarily going to sign a petition or send something into DC. By actively participating with some of these companies that are really moving the food system forward, I think it creates a really powerful force in the marketplace.

For me, I am always looking for complete transparency, straightforwardness when it comes to the labeling and the seals. With Late July, she has just gone overboard by identifying the allergens that her products are free from. You guys have gone absolutely to the very front by certifying your products as being glyphosate free.

I think that kind of transparency is so completely embraced by the consumers, especially mothers with young children because there's this fear. Who do we trust? Can I believe these companies? As these acquisitions continue to happen, those questions continue to mount.

What I will say, having been at this for as long as I have been, is that in the last couple of years, there has been enormous turnover inside of a lot of these companies. We've seen over 20 CEOs step down. With that is an opportunity for the next executive leadership team to step into that leadership role. Usually, that means that these newer leaders have younger children. They are navigating all of this right alongside us.

What I found in my work is that 12 years ago, when I was still having to educate people about what was happening to the health of our children, how they've earned the title of Generation Rx because of all these chronic illnesses, there was still that skepticism. Really? Are kids really? Is it really this bad? Today, now 12 years later, hands down, that is not debated, people see it firsthand.

You walk into any preschool. There is just a wall of EpiPens that are hanging there. We have so many conversations about type I diabetes, and all of the issues and challenges that are confronting parents as they try to figure out how to afford and pay for all these medications like epinephrine and insulin. That whole conversation has changed.

Now we've got people inside most of these companies who really get it. I think the bigger challenge now is a lot of the boards are still boards that were assembled in the 20th century. While we've seen this incredible turnover in the leadership roles, the next thing we really need to see is turnover at the board level.

Once we see that, then again, these CEOs and executives are in a place to make these really important decisions, to bring a greater transparency to the food system with the backing of the board because then the board again, like the rest of us, have children who are struggling with all these problems just like ours.

Erin: [27:19] Transparency has become such a common buzzword that I really like to see what's the action behind the transparency? You alluded to several examples there. Then, this activism that I believe people are really craving. They want to get involved. It's just providing it, a clear avenue for people to do that.

Your example of what Kashi did is a great one because it does go that step beyond you vote with your dollar. We do. I do believe that there is a desire to get involved in a deeper level. It's giving people the opportunity to do that. Robyn, you've alluded to a few examples of some companies that are doing it right. We've touched on a big issue here around our food system.

I thought that we could end talking about some of the good news. Beyond some of these specific companies, I know that these are the pioneers and the people at the forefront, system wide, are you seeing changes or things happening in the food system that indicate that we are turning the course, that we are turning the tide?

Robyn: [28:43] I think there are so many great examples of changes that are happening and they're accelerating. The rate of change is accelerating. I think one of the things that I studied when I was an analyst was the rate of change. It's not just that these changes are happening. It's that they're happening at an accelerating rate.

I often will say courage is contagious. When one person steps forward and moves to make a change or call out some injustice, it inspires other people to do the same. We're seeing that.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association really failed its members. It did not host these conversations for its members, the concern around things like GMOs, the concern around things like glyphosate, the real concern around artificial colors that parents are having. They really ignored and turned a deaf ear to those conversations.

It cost them tremendously because now you see just this exodus of companies who are leaving the Grocery Manufacturers Association. That is pretty revolutionary. When we first started talking about four years ago, I remember writing an article. People thought, "I can't believe you said that."

Again, it was if an organization is going to serve its members, it has to actually have these really hard conversations. They weren't willing to do that. We've seen all kinds of companies, Nestle, Campbell's, leave the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Right now, a lot of them are just floating, trying to figure where they need to be, what organization they should be participating in.

I've actually had a lot of these companies come to me and say, "Would you start one?" I'm like, "That's, that's not the best use of my time." I truly hope that an organization forms, a food production association that is really focused on the supply chain that helps these companies begin to navigate that transition from conventional to organic in order to meet this growing consumer demand.

Then I think too again you cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good. A lot of these companies are expanding their offerings in the organic space. They're partnering with the retailers. I think that is really an important piece of this. Kroger, for example, back in 2012 when they launched Simple Truth and their Simple Truth Organic line, at that point, the entire food industry was locked.

We were in this giant argument and debate around GMOs. It was this he said, she said thing. Kroger just listened to the consumer who was saying, "I want free farm food. I don't want this stuff on my food." They didn't want to debate it. They just wanted food that was free from GMOs, artificial colors and artificial ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. Kroger launched a private label brand.

I think that did more to change the industry than almost anything because all of a sudden, these companies who had been on the sidelines arguing about it realized that Kroger was moving past them. Kroger moved past them fast. That Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic line went from zero to a billion in revenue in a two-year period.

Now when you listen to their earnings call, the CEO will say, "This is like the highlight. This is the bright spot in our earnings." It totally kick started the rest of the food industry to say, "Oh gosh, we got to get in on this game." Now all of a sudden, you see these bigger multinationals participating. There's a lot of skepticism in the consumer base around that.

They're saying, "These are the same companies that were trying to tell us that we didn't deserve to have GMOs labeled and that we didn't deserve to know what's in our food. Why should we trust them now?" That's where I think the follow through is going to be absolutely critical. There are a lot of acquisitions that are happening.

These big companies are trying to buy in and adopt and inherit the DNA of some of these organic companies. In some cases, I think it really works. In other cases, the culture of the big company making the acquisition isn't malleable or fluid enough to really begin to integrate and embrace that organic DNA. It's not one size fits all. We still have a good few years in front of us of this shakedown.

It's also going to be interesting to see how these different companies navigate it. Wall Street really is still operating as if it's in 1985 when it comes to how they are questioning and grading the food industry. I think they're measuring these companies on metrics that really need to be readjusted.

Instead of the margin in profitability and everything else that was from the 20th century, we need to also be asking questions about what percentage of your farmland is organic? What programs do you have in place to convert that farmland to organic? What are you doing with your farmers? What incentive are you putting in place? How are you financing this?

Those are really important conversations if the food industry is going to be able to capture and ride the growth that the consumer is asking for when it comes to expanding organic. I look at some of these companies. When I meet with some of these CEOs, some of the best CEOs are the ones that are right there on social media engaging with the consumer and really, really listening.

She's telling you exactly what she needs and exactly what she wants. If you really get into those conversations and listen, you hear the heartache of what it means to have a child with food allergies. You hear the heartache of what it means to have a child with type I diabetes.

The closer you are to that conversation, the better due diligence you're doing, the better information you have when it comes to watching these newer products, redeveloping older ones. I think those CEOs really are quite remarkable because they are absolutely just on the front line in social media with the consumers having these really vibrant conversations. They're not afraid to.

That's also been a huge shift, is that there was a lot of fear around these conversations 10 years ago. Fear is not a catalyzing emotion for a long period of time. It may create change in the short term. I think what we're seeing now is this shift. As corny as it sounds, love is such an incredible force when it comes to creating change. It's a very expansive energy. It's very embracing.

While parents may feel afraid, angry, sad or mad if a child is diagnosed with something, they feel all of those negative things because they love so much. Once a parent hits that emotion of just that love that is a rocket fuel, it drives remarkable change.

We just continue to see that happen over and over and over again in the food industry. That's where I get really excited because that's the fuel that's driving this change. It is a limitless source when it comes to parents and their children.

Unfortunately, with the rates of diagnoses that we're seeing in kids, they only continue to go up which means that more and more parents are coming into this. They're called into this action. The movement and this army of foot soldiers that we see now as parents is growing into this remarkable force.

Erin: [35:57] Love is a galvanizing force and can affect so much change. I truly believe that, as you're saying, fear can motivate us in the short run. I think that love has a sustainable energy that can really be the impetus for all great change.

What I'm hearing, Robyn, is also just that need for us to listen to each other and also engage. Not just listen and engage with one another and bring everyone along and also provide tools at all levels of the supply chains, that we can do this as a society, all of us, from farmer to consumer and everywhere in between.

I want to thank you for this conversation. I think it's part one of many more to come. I appreciate your time and all of your insights and expertise. Thank you for being here with me today, Robyn.

Robyn: [36:56] I feel the same about you guys. MegaFood truly has been a leader in a lot of these really important conversations. It's easy for somebody to say, "Oh, that's so great they did that," but it takes a lot of courage too.

I really do want to thank your team for being out in front and hosting these important conversations, for putting it on the products, for putting it on the labels so that there is complete transparency for consumers, because truly I think that is the only way forward.

Erin: [37:24] Thank you. I think courage is contagious. I hope that through this podcast and other avenues, we'll just be able to continue to spread it.

Abigail: [37:33] Wow. Listening to that, I was really taken aback by how lucky we are to have someone like Robyn in our corner. She's doing this great advocacy for our food systems but up at the high level with these big corporations that I often think of as untouchable.

If they just were to listen or become stewards for our food system, for our earth, for our health, they would have the ability to make huge change. I've always thought about what can I do as a consumer or as the customer of these big brands. She's taken it a step further and gone straight to them on a peer level.

Killeen: [38:07] All of us can't do it all ourselves. We have to accept that. I'm right with you. As a consumer, I feel frustrated sometimes, like, "Ugh, what can I do?" Then on this new level, it's not just finding brands we trust, for example. It's finding these public figures and influencers that we trust so that when we have brands that are not doing it right, we've got somebody that's on the front lines like Robyn is.

It's really an interesting way to get our information, isn't it? Find the influencer that we can trust to glean from them who we should support, maybe who we should stay away from, the choices that we try to make. That really brought it all clear for me that we find those that are doing it right. We follow their lead.

Abigail: [39:02] Follow their lead, lift them up I think, support them and find the ways that we can attach ourselves to their mission and try to transform this food system that so desperately needs it. The other thing that was so interesting is the origin story of our current food system and how it came to be.

Of course, I'm sure neither of us are surprised to learn that profitability had a lot to do with it. Again, being so grateful that I'm currently living in a time where now we're looking beyond that profitability and taking the humans into consideration, and health and wellness.

Killeen: [39:36] That rate of change that she spoke about, it is very uplifting. I feel like I was really needing that note of positivity because we've been in this downward spiral for so long. The big companies are starting to have some huge conversations because of what people want. I feel like there's really hope in improving our supply chain as a result of this consumer demand.

That Kroger example was really eye opening.

Abigail: [40:05] I agree with you. I think Robyn and Erin really offered a message of inspiration and a battle cry, but a lot of hope as well.

Killeen: [40:13] Good stuff. I'm sure this isn't the last conversation that we'll have with Robyn. In fact, I can guarantee it because she's going to be on the show again in a few months. Listeners, if you liked what you heard today, make sure you tune in again.

Abigail: [40:30] I am looking forward to hearing from Robyn again.

Killeen: [40:32] Me too. Thanks, Abby.

Abigail: [40:34] Thanks, Killeen.

[40:34] [background music]

Announcer: [40:36] Today's episode is brought to you by MegaFood, making vitamin and mineral supplements in New Hampshire since 1973. As a certified B Corp, MegaFood's vision is to nourish a world in nutritional crisis, starting with products that use real food from family owned farms.

All MegaFood's products are certified free of gluten, dairy, soy, and 125 different herbicides and pesticides including glyphosate residue. Learn more about MegaFood's products, passions, and purpose at

Leave a review on iTunes. Let us know what you think of the show. We'd love to hear from you.

The statements in this podcast have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

More episodes You'll Love