Donna Quesada: I would imagine that it needs to start in schools. What is the impediment to bringing this kind of education?
Ocean Robbins: It can start wherever you are. The truth is that wherever you are is the perfect place to get going. And yes, at a societal level, schools have a huge impact, and that’s one of the places we can make a difference. We’ve done quite a lot of work on school lunch programs and empowering people on that topic. And if you have kids, or nieces, or nephews, or grandkids, or great-grandkids that are in school, you can make a difference. Quite frankly, if you are a tax payer and your taxes are helping fund schools, you can also make a difference. You can meet with the local food services directly, and actually talk with them about what they are doing to improve the health of the school lunches, and find out what their challenges are. It’s usually financial.
The biggest challenges they face are money and students willing to eat the healthy stuff. And the best way to get the students involved… one way is to get kids involved with growing food—school gardens. That makes a big difference… education. So, they learn why it matters. Instead of just having an ideology shoved down their throat. And then, making it tasty and delicious.
And, as far as the financial piece… that is a real challenge. Some people try to do fund raising to augment local resources. Schools are dependent on subsidies and free food, or heavily subsidized food from the U.S.D.A. And a lot of that food is the junkiest, unhealthiest stuff out there. Again, getting fined for wearing our seat belts… If you get a 50-cent budget per student, for a lunch, and then they are given free stuff. Guess what? They are going to use it.
So, we’ve got to fight that by changing government policy, and helping improve the resources that are allocated to healthy foods. Act like we actually care about the health of our kids. And we can also get involved locally in raising funds. Getting local farms and farmers markets to donate their left-over produce at the end of the day. Making resources available in different creative ways. But if you meet with the local food services director, you can find out exactly what they are thinking and whether they are an ally for this. A lot of them actually do care, and feel ashamed at what they are doing, and want to do better, but feel stuck. And if you can give them some breakthroughs… Healthyschoollunches.org is a website for an organization, the National Coalition for School Lunches. They provide resources, recipes, PSA Announcements. Over 20,000 schools are using it throughout the country to just inspire kids to eat healthier foods. They have quick little tips in 30 seconds. So those are just useful ways to spread the word and they are a great organization, if that is a cause you care about.
DONNA: And you are no stranger to this. You founded Youth for Environmental Sanity when you were just 16. Is this part of what you did with this group?
OCEAN:: Yes, absolutely. We spoke to school assemblies and reached hundreds of thousands of students in schools across the United States. Also advocated for healthier school lunches, and getting recycling programs on campus. And educating young people and getting classes where you can learn about healthy food and eating and nutrition. And I was inspired to be able to do that work for some time and see that so many young people cared and wanted to be part of the solution. And now, I direct Food Revolution Network and we have over half a million members. We work with people all over the planet. Anyone who really cares and wants to get healthy, and be healthy, and live healthy, and participate in a more ethical world.
DONNA: Is this just an extension of that work that you started doing with YES?
OCEAN:: Yeah. Essentially, it’s the next step in my life. We aren’t just focusing on young people—it’s for all ages. I joined my father in doing this… John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America, and Food Revolution. His dad, my grandfather, founded Baskin-Robbins. My dad walked away from the ice cream cone shaped swimming pool in the back yard and the family fortune, and family company, to follow his own rocky road… become a best-selling author. He inspired a lot of people and about eight years ago, I decided to join with him directly, in launching Food Revolution Network, so we could help get the food message out to the masses and reach everybody, everywhere. So, I’d say, it’s an incredible privilege to work with him. To work with leaders all over the planet, who are saying enough is enough. We are ready to change the world.
DONNA: When I asked your father, “What has been your greatest accomplishment?” He said it was you! He said, “Ocean, and the fact that he has joined this cause and made such a difference.”
DONNA: What has been your greatest accomplishment?
OCEAN:: You know, I probably hear from people almost every day of my life, who feel like their lives have been transformed, or saved by the work that we get to do. And any one of those would be enough. But cumulatively, it’s humbling. And it’s overwhelming, and it’s beautiful. And for me, I want to help people be healthy. I want more love, and more joy, and less pain. To me, health is a means to a greater end. Not an end unto itself. We want to eat to live not live to eat.
But life is about health and it’s also about what we do with that health.
What lights me up and fills me with great joy is that I get to be part of helping people do what they were born to do. To participate in some way in their life’s purpose… to take their place on this planet as participants in healing, and transformation, and awakening. That, to me, is the ultimate privilege. Life is so short. We never know how long we’ll have on this planet, but we do know that it’s not forever.
So, what do we do with the days? How do we inhabit them? How do we live them? And when you are suffering, and sick, and scared, it saps the soul out of your life. When you are in pain… They say a woman with her health has a thousand dreams. But a woman without it has but one. To get it back, right? So, I want to help everyone have a thousand dreams… and be able to live those dreams and manifest. And that is what my life is dedicated to.
DONNA: And what has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced in doing this work?
OCEAN:: I think that my greatest challenge personally, is time. There’s only one of me and 24 hours in the day, and I use them as well as I possibly can. But, I feel the sense of urgency. Right now, billions of people are suffering from the status quo. And I want to help as many people as possible, and I’m only one person. So, I try to be leveraged, and strategic, and effective, and reach as many humans as I can. But ultimately, I can’t do it alone, and that is why I need you and everybody watching right now. Everybody listening right now to be a part of this. Because ultimately, if you care about your health and the health of our world… if you want to be a part of the solution… this is your invitation. This is your call to action.
I want to thank you for all that you do and invite you to step up the game in any way that you can. Because we don’t have a lot of time left if we want future generations to have a livable planet. If we want to put an end to the torture and murder of animals and factory farms. If we want the next generation of children to grow up healthier, with longer life expectancies in a better world, then we better get busy… not busy in a stressed-out kind of way… busy in a deeply purposeful kind of way.
DONNA: Do you have a daily practice that keeps you healthy, and mentally, spiritually fit?
OCEAN:: Well, every day I get lots of healthy food. Lots of vegetables. I make sure to have some time for prayer, or inner reflection. I make sure to get some exercise. I ride my bike to all of my appointments, and work out at the gym and dance regularly. And I make sure to have love in my life, because loneliness kills faster than cigarettes. So, I like to have positive social connections that open my heart, and inspire me, and bring me love, and kinship, and connection. We need hugs, we need love, we need connection. We need a sense of belonging to a community that is greater than ourselves. Those are some of the corner stones of a healthy life and a beautiful life, too. And I try to bring them all into every day of my life.
DONNA: And if someone is sitting there thinking, I want to do something… I want to start making these kinds of changes. What would you say is the single most important thing to start with?
OCEAN:: If you want to be part of the solution, and you are looking at where to start… The best place to start is where you are. And the best place to go is where you want to go. And the best way to get there is to be clear about your vision. Honestly assessing where you are at and then getting going. Because the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. And depending on where you are and where you want to go, that step will be different. I believe there are over 7 Billion parts to play in the healing of our world. Because there are over 7 Billion humans on this planet. And your own unique part is yours and yours alone. But it’s terribly important that you play it, and do it, and step into it. And the beautiful thing is that every step you take makes it easier to take the next step because you build momentum.
So, never let apathy steal your dreams. Never let the status quo rob you of your possibility. Always choose to keep stepping forward into your vision and your values. Aligning your values with your actions… and you will create positive transformation. On a practical level, when it comes to food, you can clear out the worst offenders in your kitchen. You can make a shopping list of good healthy foods. Find recipes that you love. Get a book like 31 Day Food Revolution. Order it, and read it right away, and put it into action in your life.
DONNA: Instead of 31 flavors, 31 days.
OCEAN:: That’s right. I say, 31 steps to health will bring you more satisfaction, more pleasure, more joy, than 31 flavors of ice cream. That’s why I wrote 31 Day Food Revolution. To put that all into practice in your life.
DONNA: What about particulars, like maybe a No Meat Monday?
OCEAN:: That’s a great step, too. Meat Free Monday is wonderful. Wherever you are, you can just get rolling with it. And Meat Free Monday is beautiful. But, it doesn’t obviously end with Monday. It’s a great start, and for a lot of people, it’s like I can do one day a week. Or a meatless meal. You take those steps and then you keep going. Then you go… what about meat free Tuesday.. Thursday and Friday?
I think Mark Pittman wrote a book about being Vegan until six, every day. Do what you can. Don’t make the perfect into the enemy of the good. And then, remember also… it’s progress, not perfection. But let’s keep going. Let’s keep moving. Let’s keep stepping forward. If you are super healthy eater and you are a third-degree Vegan. I just made up that term. You know, you are super passionate and you eat kale for breakfast… There are probably still steps you could take to clean up your act and get healthier. But the next step might be helping other people. And spreading the word in a conscious and loving way. The odds are that if you are eating fabulously well, you’ve probably got a lot of energy, so, let’s put that to good use.
DONNA: And if you were leaving the planet tomorrow, what would you do today?
OCEAN:: If I were literally leaving the planet tomorrow, I would tell a lot of people that I love them. And probably make some recordings for my kids. And I would certainly sign a few documents to hand off some things the best I could to help the organization that I founded and would love to carry forward in its mission. Here’s the thing. We never know how long we have on this planet. Any of us. We don’t necessarily want to live like this could be our last day because that has some very specific elements to it. But to live with nothing unfinished. Nothing unclaimed. Who do we need to forgive? Not for their sake but for our own. For our own wholeness and integrity. Are there any relationships that are torn… that we want to bring some healing or mending to? Apologies we need to convey? Those are the kinds of things we need to ask, on a regular basis. So, there is a cleanness to our spirit and our lives. Because all those entanglements… the unfinished business would obviously impact us, if we are dying. But it impacts us day to day because it saps energy, and vitality, and life force. So, I want to cleanup my act as much as I can, and live in a way that I would have no regrets.
DONNA: And as we wind down our interview here… you said something a moment ago about cleaning up your own act… and then, if you want to continue on, you can help others… Is there a sort of formula, or magical thing you can say about how to balance that individual awakening, and individual change, with social action?
OCEAN:: You know… I think they support each other and reinforce each other. The world doesn’t need more people who are sacrificing their own health and wellness for the good of others. The world needs more people who are in a positive feedback loop, where our own well-being enhances our ability to serve. And where our service is lighting us up, and giving us a greater sense of meaning, and congruency, and purpose, and passion, and vitality. A life well lived actually gives you more energy.
I’ve seen peace activists who hit people over the head with their peace signs because they get so mad at rallies. I’ve seen social justice activists who are caught up in power struggles and power fights. I’ve seen environmentalists who are eating crap and burning themselves out, lacking sleep, while they are trying to save the world. And Ghandi said “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” I think it doesn’t help anybody if we talk the talk and don’t walk it. So, congruency is critical, I think.
That’s one of the things I love about the healthy food movement. It’s a place where you can bring your food choices in alignment with your values. And when you do, you actually get healthy, more vibrant, and well. You also become of greater service and contribution to planet earth… because the same food choices that are good for you are also good for the planet.
DONNA: Is there anything else you’d like to say before we close our hour together?
OCEAN:: I just want to thank you for giving me the most precious gift any of us has, which is your time and attention. I think curiosity is one of the most potent forces in the universe. So, I want to challenge you right now to ask the right questions.Questions like, How can I create more alignment between my values and my actions? Questions like, Who do I need to forgive, in order to be free? Questions like, Who do I need to apologize to, in order to feel like I’m in integrity? Questions like, How do I see these compromises of my values? What would it take to ease into a healthier life, and healthier choices, day in and day out?
Each of us has the capacity to be part of a more beautiful, transformative world… and a more awakened world. So, I want to thank you for being here, right now. And I want to challenge you, and invite you to join in this movement. If you want to connect with us, you can go to FoodRevolution.org. That’s our website. There are hundreds of articles on there that are completely free. You can learn all kinds of great stuff. You can also check out 31 Day Food Revolution my book, and put it into action in your life. And know that you are part of the Food Revolution, every time you choose real food over processed junk… every time you choose to make your food choices into a vote for the health you want, and the world you want.
DONNA: We will have all of that information under the interview. And right back at you. I want to thank you for all of the tireless work that you do and for continuing in your father’s footsteps. He’s done such wonderful work. It’s an immense challenge. And we are just grateful that you get up every day and do it… for the animals and for all of us.
OCEAN: As am I. Thank you so much.
Read and Watch Part II Here: Awaken Interviews Ocean Robbins Pt 2 – Meat Production Is Using Up Over 80% Of Agricultural Land