Earlier this year I stumbled upon the inspirational Smith family from The Root Cause and have since followed their journey around Australia improving the health of this generation of kids. I wanted to share their story with you and the positive changes they’re bringing to everyday Aussie families. This week I chatted with Bel about her amazing initiative…
Tell me a little bit about your family and the work you do?
I am Bel Smith. My most important job in the world is being a mum to my two children. I’m also Health and Wellness Coach and I’m on a mission to transform children’s health, one lunchbox at a time!
Together with my husband and 2 children, I travel Australia in our big green bus ‘Kaley’ running fun and interactive workshops that empower children to make better food choices. My simple and fun messages about health, gets children to take responsibility for the food they put in their mouth and to have meaningful conversations about food, without the usual parent child power struggle. We’ve been doing this for a little over 12 months now and getting fantastic results. We have another 14 months to go until our Australian Tour is complete.
What started you on this mission around Oz?
The real back story to our mission is that my husband was diagnosed with post natal depression after our son was born 6 years ago. We turned to food and lifestyle changes rather than medication. Within a week of removing gluten from his diet, my 6”4 husband said he felt a fog had been lifted. As a mum though, what really fuelled my passion for children’s health, was seeing the dramatic change in our daughter. This simple diet change reduced her anxiety levels and she was no longer having temperamental outbursts for no apparent reason.
Before we discovered the linkage between food and mood, I was just an everyday mum who had Maggi packets in her cupboard and added water to things thinking that it was a meal. I still cooked but it was largely from packets and my daughter’s lunchbox include foods like yoghurt pouches and rice wheels. The realisation that changing one element of our diet could have such a big impact, made me determined to find out more. I studied to be a health coach and over 12 months, systematically went about changing our diet to real wholefoods.
Within about a year, my daughter started getting teased at school about her lunchboxes being packet-free. Her teacher suggested that I come in and talk to the kids about a healthy lunchbox. I thought “how am I going to get thirty kids listen to me talk about fruit and vegetables? I created some quirky experiments and I called it the Mad Food Science program. Basically, overnight I had parents contacting me saying “my son’s going through our pantry telling me I have to find better choices.”
The school got me back in and I did the program for the whole school, then another school, and another school. We had already spoken about travelling Australia as one of our ways of getting out of the Sydney madness which was contributing to Israel’s depression. I said to him one night “if we’re going to do this, let’s see if we can make a difference to other people’s lives with the information that we’ve learnt.”
So now we travel around and we share our Mad Food Science program, empowering children and parents to work together to make better food choices.
Tell us about what you have you achieved so far?
The results we’re getting are just so exciting – when you empower kids to make better food choices, they really do go home and talk to their parents about what they learnt. For some parents this is such a relief because it’s what they have always been trying to tell their kids. For some families, it’s a catalyst for change where the whole family starts to make better food choices together.
In the past 12 months, we’ve run our Mad Food Science Program at 67 schools, preschools and community events and had almost 10,000 people directly attend our events. At least once a week you can find me in our bus doing a happy dance and saying I say “I love what I do”. It’s hard not to when you get feedback like this:
“The kids haven’t stopped talking about it since they got in the car after school haha! We had to check ingredients on packaged food when we got home and they have both circled some new rainbow fruit / veg they would like to try from your handout. Keep up the good work!” – Amber
“The knock on effect this afternoon when taking the kids to buy afternoon tea was mind blowing. Hannah our 10 year old sugar addict looking for better options was amazing, making the choices with the kids was a highlight of motherhood for me. The conversations that followed around the dinner table!!! Wow! Thank you. You’re Australia’s very own Jamie Oliver” – Sam
There are so many more of these sorts of emails, messages, phone calls. It just makes my heart swell to know not only are these children feeling empowered about the food they want to put in their body, but they are really talking to their parents about it. Our National Partner, Worldwide Printing Solutions ensures every child who participates in the program receives a hand out. We know based on the feedback from parents, these handouts are instrumental in the conversation continuing at home. This is how our program is having such big knock on impact to the health of the whole family. We really are transforming children’s health!
Have you faced any difficulties during your mission?
These results are certainly what keeps us pushing on with our mission, but we have faced quite a few challenges too. Learning how to live on the road in a confined space with our kids and learning to be their school supervisor has certainly had its challenges. But, the biggest challenge we have faced is the number of expensive mechanical breakdowns we’ve experienced. We have literally invested our life savings into getting the bus repaired so we can keep our mission on the road.
What are your ongoing goals?
Our big goal is to impact 100,000 people as we travel around Australia and run our program at least 100 schools, preschools and community events.
Our ongoing goals are to continue our tour around Australia with it ending at the end of 2018, and to digitise our Mad Food Science Program so we can make it available to every child across Australia. We’ve also got a very exciting project to transition an entire school to real food lunchboxes for a term next year.
How can we help (and how can people connect with you)?
Since we started travelling Australia and empowering kids to make better food choices, we’ve had loads of people ask how they can help us. Right now, we really need help to keep us on the road, so we’ve created an opportunity for you to support us.
Click here to watch the full story, and find out how you can support us in our mission.
If you want to receive an information pack about The Mad Food Science Program for your school, please complete this online form.
You can also connect with The Root Cause via social media: