Koa Halpern is just 11 years old and is already making a profound shift for the positive in his community at large!
As founder of Fast Food Free, he has a mission to educate the American people, especially the youth, to become more aware of the health and environmental aspects of indulging in fast food and what that enterprise involves.
When we heard about how this extremely conscious and motivated 11 year old is, doing this very inspiring work, we had to reach out for an interview. His message is touching, his drive contageous.
Thanks Koa, for this exclusive SAFbaby interview! We have so much respect for what you and your friends are doing. Keep up the good work, it is people like you who are making our world a better place.
Interview With FastFoodFree.org
How old are you and your co-founders of FastFoodFree.org?
I am eleven years old and my co-founders are eleven through thirteen.
What is your mission/message?
The mission of Fast Food Free is to reduce the consumption of fast food through education and community awareness resulting in healthier people and a better world. We hope to partner with other non-profits and organizations to help us achieve our mission.
What are the dangers/health risks of eating fast food on children and the environment?
Fast Food contains large quantities of calories and artificial products such as coloring, flavoring and preservatives. It is not safe for adults (or kids) to regularly eat it. Fast food has been linked to the current childhood obesity epidemic and is contributing to the increase in Diabetes that has skyrocketed over the last twenty years.
As for the environment, it takes 55 square feet of rainforest to make just one Quarter Pounder patty, and much more for tomatoes, lettuce, packaging, and almost everything else. The process depletes our natural resources as well as the air-giving trees.
How does the packaging and waste from fast foods effect our environment?
When packaging is being manufactured, it depletes natural resources. The packaging from fast food wrappers is sometimes Styrofoam, which is non-biodegradable, non-recyclable and releases toxic fumes when burned. Plastic, another fast food packaging material, is also non-biodegradable and it also releases toxic fumes. Due to the fact that landfills occasionally catch on fire, fast food packaging can pollute the atmosphere.
Is there a safer alternative?
Yes! You can get an organic snack at your local market. It may cost a bit more (especially since the government subsidizes the corn and soybean industries that produce much of the sweeteners and fillers that go into fast food) but it is quite a bit healthier for you and your kids. You could also eat at a healthier restaurant where washable plates and cups are used.
In your research with fast food restaurants, did you ever come across one that recycles or used biodegradable containers/cups/utensils?
Some fast food restaurants use paper or cardboard containers. However, the general populace does not recycle them. The containers are mainly made that way because paper and cardboard are cheap, and any large “Recycle This” statements are simply trying to get the public to think the chain is going green. Actually, you could recycle everything and still it would not make up for the negative environmental impact of the burger itself.
How could your organization/community in large help to get that started in these chains?
You can raise consumer awareness. If they are educated about the negative impact that fast food creates, there is a good chance that they will try to help. Hopefully people will put pressure on fast food restaurants to be more environmentally responsible, treat the animals that are farmed for fast food more humanely and provide better working conditions and health care for the people who grow and produce the animals and vegetables used in fast food.
How did you start your awesome project, www.FastFoodFree.org?
I have always disliked Fast Food. However, I didn’t really think about it for a while. But when my first foreign exchange student came to stay with us, one of her first questions was “Where’s a McDonalds?” I started researching about why she loved fast food so muchâ€¦ and discovered it was unsafe and just generally bad. I decided that needed to change, and thus Fast Food Free was born.
Have you made an impact in your local community (your school mates) and community at large? How?
Yes. I have received letters and comments on my website about how some people who took the pledge found that being off fast food made them feel healthier and have more energy. One woman said she was at a restaurant (not even a fast food one) and was going to order a steak but decided on a salad instead. And some said they even felt better about themselves being part of the solution rather than the problem.
Does your school offer a healthy cafeteria? Is nutrition taught in an interesting manner? What message are you taught about food, the way we eat, and being healthy in school?
Unfortunately not (although I understand changes may be coming). I did an analysis of the food and did not find there were healthy choices. I asked the cafeteria manager about possible alternatives such as real cheese and wheat (versus white) bread, but she said it wasn’t possible. As a result, I bring my lunch every day.
If a person is ‘addicted’ to fast foods, how would you encourage them to stop?
I simply encourage them to not go inside the restaurant. If someone smells the insides, the smells can very easily make them order their favorite fast food meal. In addition, keep a healthy snack with you to prevent you from being tempted to go to a chain.
What is a safe alternative to eating at fast food restaurants?
There are several healthy fast food restaurants. They include: Noodles, Souper Salad, Sweet Tomatoes, Subway, Panda Express, Papa Murphy’s, Einstein Brothers, and Chipotle Mexican Grill. You can also choose a more formal restaurant.
Any tips for our readers to eat healthy on-the-go with children?
Packing beforehand is key with kids. If you are taking a full-day trip, be sure to pack snacks beforehand (celery and peanut butter, PBJ sandwiches, cheese sticks with pizza sauce on the side). Once you have arrived, ask where the nearest healthy restaurant is (See above.)
We think another great thing to encourage in people who eat meat daily is to ask them to not eat meat just 2 days per week to help cut down greenhouse gas emissions. Worldwide livestock farming (much of this going to support fast food meat) generates 18% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions – by comparison, all the world’s cars, trains, planes and boats account for a combined 13% of greenhouse gas emissions. What is Fast Food Free’s feelings on this?**
It would be fine to not eat Fast Food for two days a week or so- my ultimate goal is to have people stop eating Fast Food altogether, but a reduction certainly helps. In fact, one of my main goals is to stop people from eating fast food for just two weeks. And a campaign coming up is trying to get people to stay away from just one fast food joint (McDonalds) for just one day. Every little bit helps.
Any other words you would like to share with our readers?
The fast food establishments are not doing much for the world. They consume huge amounts of energy, have unhealthy menu items, and cut down rainforests. They are only concerned about making money and target kids, knowing their parents will probably give in. They use toy give aways and have playgrounds and run exciting commercials during kid’s shows. They are not the best for the world in general. But you can help. Go to www.fastfoodfree.org to learn more.
Ending on a personal note from SAFbaby…
We additionally like this fitting and impactful quote from Bill Maher “it’s better for the environment to eat a salad in a Hummer than a cheeseburger in a Prius.”
Really edifies the work that Koa and Fast Food Free is taking on here!
Koa Halpern and Fast Food Free
Koa Halpern is just 11 years old and is already making a profound shift for the positive in his community!
As co-founder of Fast Food Free, he has a mission to educate the American people, especially the youth, to become more aware of the health and environmental aspects of indulging in fast food and what that enterprise involves. He also wants to take training seminars that are specifically geared to kids volunteering and taking positive action in their community. Koa is starting to receive donations to his cause, and has spent a lot of his own money.
He is funding Fast Food Free completely with his own funds and that of donations. Please visit his inpiring site now!