It became obvious that there was a need for ChopChop, and that to get to doctors I needed to be a non-profit (I re-started Kid2Kid) and raise money. The first one into the money pool was Boston Medical Center, Barry's hospital, of course. When other hospitals heard that Barry was in, that got their competitive juices flowing, and they followed as well.
As the concept evolved from a pamphlet to a real magazine, I reached out to Gary Hirshberg at Stonyfield Farms and Larry Witt at OXO kitchen products, both friends whose companies are committed to supporting nutrition. Both came in quickly as sponsors. I recruited a team of award-winners: I called Steve Slon, the seasoned editor who revamped and revitalized AARP The Magazine. He jumped in and brought with him co-worker and brilliant creative director Andrzej Janerka. I also called photographer Carl Tremblay, who has photographed five of my books: when I need a photographer, I never think of anyone else. They all worked tirelessly and pro-bono.
I also called close friends: I asked writer Susan Orlean to interview 12-year-old Orren Fox, who shares her, um, obsession and love for chickens. To complete the full circle I asked food writer/editor John Willoughby to be on my quickly emerging advisory board of luminaries (not only had he written about me for Steve, he had also been on the original Kid2Kid board). I read everything on obesity I could get my hands on and if someone struck me as smart or interesting, I called them. And when it made sense, I asked them to be on my advisory board: Harvard School of Public Health nutritionist Walter Willett was first in, and once he joined, I asked away. No one said no, and it never occurred to me not to ask. It's easy when you're asking for time or money when the mission is to help kids.
It started to snowball. More hospitals came in. Then Barry sent an email blast to hundreds of pediatricians, and we got close to 100 percent participation. That was enough support to print the first issue, 150,000 copies, with tons of pro-bono support from some top publishing and marketing professionals. We got kids to try out recipes, read and review text, test mazes and word searches, and model for the magazine. We didn't include anything that hadn't been vetted by kids and experts in every relevant field: our advisory board even includes a former Sesame Street wiz.
The first issue came out last spring and the response was wildly enthusiastic, based on feedback from doctors, hospitals, and parents. While our original intent was to distribute exclusively through pediatricians, we got requests from just about every sector, including grocery stores (ChopChop is sold at Whole Foods Markets across the country), farmers' markets, after-school programs (Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCA's), schools (Mayor Joe Curtatone bought copies for every elementary-school student in Somerville, Massachusetts), WIC programs, and several food banks. ChopChop is distributed in every state and on two American Indian reservations. In the first issue we included a recipe for congee, Asian rice porridge, which I was told more than once not to include. It's the favorite recipe on one of the reservations and at the Harlem Children's Zone.
Our second issue—200,000 copies—was just printed. At the same time, we received an endorsement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and major funding from the New Balance Foundation, which places a high priority on addressing the health of underserved and low-income children nationwide. They and other sponsors will be needed to keep growing our circulation. Our goal is to put copies in the hands of all 28 million school-age children in the U.S.
So the truth is, I am still doing the same things I did as a cookbook writer: cooking, eating, thinking about food, talking about food, reading about food, feeding friends and family—but now there's a difference. Now it feels like it matters.
As a sample of what we do, here's an easy recipe from our recent fall issue: