Welcome to another edition of 10 Words or Less, in which I ask brief questions and request brief answers from interesting people. Today’s participant is cofounder and executive director of NYSHEPA, which “advocates for policies and practices that improve the nutritional and physical activity environment in New York State.” Please, no counting! “10 words” is a goal, not a rule, and besides, let’s see you do it.
Name Nancy Huehnergarth
Born when, where "Baltimore, when the Beatles were #1 on the charts."
Resides: Chappaqua, NY
Your family circumstance "Married, with two teenage daughters."
A transformative event in your youth “Someone from my class drowned on Senior Cut Day.”
How did that affect you? “This was someone who was a bit disenfranchised, low income, and it made me realize that all people need to be treated with respect and that their lives should be cherished.”
Outside your family, someone’s example you follow “The person who inspired me to get involved in food reform: Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest."
Your greatest hope about the 2012 Food Bill “We stop subsidizing crops like corn and soy, and begin to subsidize produce.”
Your greatest fear about the 2012 Food Bill “The Big Food and Big Ag lobbying whirlwind will convince legislators to create a bill that benefits only Big Food and Big Ag.”
Do you agree with the statement that, in popular conception, junk food is fun and nutrition is for sissies? “People believe that, thanks to clever marketing from Big Food.”
Is there a way to make nutrition sexy? “Yes — it’s sexy because health is sexy, and there’s nothing sexy about being an unhealthy person with chronic disease. We have to get that across to consumers.”
What comes first ...
... personal responsibility or collective action? “In food reform, the data show that collective action, e.g. policy, is the only thing that changes people’s health habits.”
... healthy eating or adequate physical activity? “Healthy eating, definitely.”
... community organizing or the issues you are organizing over? “I became passionate about an issue, and my next step was to organize an alliance.”
You recently opened a consultancy. What do you advise on? “Which legislation communities should focus on, how to get that legislation passed, and how to counter opponents’ arguments. I also advise on coalition building and all forms of advocacy communication.”
An example of how you live the principles you espouse “I keep in my home, and serve for meals, healthy whole foods, cooked from minimally processed products.”
The funniest thing you’ve heard recently “That Stephen Colbert is running for president."
Your favorite social networking mode? “Oh, Twitter. I like the challenge of the 140-character limit.”
Name three people worth following on Twitter "Can I say you?"
Sure, if you want. “OK. You (@fatboythinman), Michele Simon (@appetite4profit), and Marion Nestle (@marionnestle)."
Someone who deserves more attention for her or his work? "Kelly Brownell and the Rudd Center [for Food Policy and Obesity] at Yale. He gets a lot of attention, but not as much as he deserves.”
What should I have asked you that I didn’t? “A lot of corporations and legislators and others say, why do we have to write a policy to make changes? Why don’t we just work with corporations to act voluntarily?”
And the answer? “There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but it’s just not sustainable until it’s put into law.”
The one thing you wish everyone would just get right “That our government is run by large corporations at the present time, and at the bottom of it is campaign financing.”
You can follow Huehnergarth at @nyshepa.