When I tell people that my family made an award-winning indie film about our misadventures with backyard chickens and that my wife titled it Food Patriots, they ask three questions.
The first question is, “What’s a Food Patriot?”
The second question is, “Why did you get backyard chickens?”
The third question is, “Why are you making a film about this?”
Our film answers those questions with a sense of humor and a powerful story that you can see online right now at www.foodpatriots.com. Organic Valley, Stonyfield Farm and the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department have helped make this possible.
According to the star of the film, Jennifer Amdur Spitz, my wife, Food Patriots are people everywhere who are trying to change the way Americans eat, buy and teach the next generation about food. The film shows what happens when our family tries to take our first steps into the food revolution. For my family this unexpected journey traces back to a food-borne illness that struck our older son, Sam.
Sam was a big high school athlete who pitched on the varsity baseball team as a freshman. He played defensive line and fullback for the varsity football team. College recruiters and scouts came to his games. He began to lift weights and eat more healthy foods. That’s why it was odd when he came home from school one day with a terrible stomachache after eating a “healthy choice” chicken Caesar salad for lunch. We thought he would feel better after going to the bathroom. After hours in there he cried out. He had uncontrollable diarrhea. He was bleeding. He could not get up from the toilet.
In order to leave the bathroom and go to the emergency room our strapping son had to wear a diaper. Doctors took a culture and gave him a broad spectrum antibiotic. We brought Sam back home. He was pale and losing weight rapidly. We fed him chicken broth.
After a few days it was clear that the antibiotic failed. When the doctor told us the result of the culture, we learned about a food-borne illness called campylobacter, caused by contaminated chicken. It usually lasts two to five days. They prescribed a different antibiotic. It failed, too.
Sam was dejected. He felt weaker every day and just wanted to know if we were hiding the truth from him. He asked us point-blank if he had stomach cancer. Days went by without improvement. We managed to get an appointment with an expert and were lucky to find a top internist at the University of Chicago who unlocked the mystery. He explained that Sam had an antibiotic resistant form of bacteria—a “superbug.” He prescribed a more powerful antibiotic, and it worked.
Sam had lost 30 pounds, a month of school and his sophomore baseball season. He tells his story in our film, which also follows his journey to Washington, DC, with his mom to lobby Congress as part of a campaign called Super Moms Against Super Bugs. Some experts say superbugs are spreading throughout our food system, mostly through pork and poultry that are fed a lot of antibiotics.
Food Patriots is our family’s way to spark conversations about the food revolution. Many people are not into this talk of “revolution.” In fact, our own extended family is not into organic food or meat without drugs, so they tease us about our “healthy food” film and our backyard chickens. The naysayers and the chickens are in our film. And so are several amazing Food Patriots who inspire us to keep going toward more healthy choices, including the University of Wisconsin’s director of strength and conditioning, Coach John Dettman. (Sam went on to play football at the University of Wisconsin.)
We believe that humor and a cast of unlikely Food Patriots are a good recipe for an film about eaters – eaters who decide to join the food revolution.
We have seen how a few small changes, including buying some organic milk and yogurt, can spark bigger conversations and bigger changes in any family. In fact, my wife’s brother, a naysayer, bet us on camera that our baby chicks would not last six months, let alone lay a single egg. If you want to see who ends up with egg on their face, just watch Food Patriots – and then share it with your friends and family.
Check out the trailer below.