An interview with Sally Sampson, founder of ChopChop Magazine
“I believe that cooking and eating together as a family is a vital step in resolving the obesity and hunger epidemics.”
Sally Sampson created ChopChop magazine to inspire and teach kids to cook and eat real food with their families. ChopChop, part of a nonprofit organization, now reaches more than three million families each year in English and Spanish with nutritious, great-tasting, ethnically diverse and inexpensive recipes.
Thriving Schools grabbed a few minutes with Sampson to glean why she sees the kitchen as the perfect place to feed children’s curiosity and their desire to create.
What was your original vision with ChopChop?
The original idea was to have pediatricians prescribe cooking during well-child visits. My thinking was that if kids learned how to cook, they would get excited about both the process and the ingredients and start to make better choices. Now we reach beyond doctors’ offices to schools, out-of-school time programs, county health departments, WIC, SNAP and Native American reservations. We work with public and private organizations to distribute the magazine wherever kids are found.
Why do American families need ChopChop?
Because people don’t cook. We have a generation of non-cooks raising another generation of non-cooks. We can change that.
How do you view your role in relation to the larger public health agenda?
While we know that obesity is a very complicated problem, ChopChop offers a solution that is both simple and easily achievable: Cook real food at home with your family. Engage your kids and grandkids.
What makes cooking fun?
It’s like an art class. You start with really beautiful stuff that you can cut and tear and combine in all sorts of ways. You can create something out of nothing. It’s the most fun thing there is!
When you think about how you want children to experience the magazine, what comes to mind?
I want them to devour it. I want them to look at a recipe and think, “Ooohhh….I could do that!” The kids in the magazine are different shapes, sizes and colors. I want our readers to think, “If that kid can make a green salad or if that kid can roast vegetables, so can I.” We feature little known food facts, Q&As and games, too. I want kids to use all different parts of their brains to engage with the magazine.
Is it true that 50% of pediatricians in the U.S. subscribe?
Yes. ChopChop is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They vet every issue to make sure all of the steps in a given recipe are completely safe and up to snuff nutritionally. Our nutrition advisors, among them Walter Willet of Harvard School of Public Health and David Ludwig of Boston Children’s Hospital, advise us on what the research says about what’s best for kids. And they help shape the recipes so that we maximize taste while keeping the sugar, fat and salt in check.
How is ChopChop used in schools?
Each edition of ChopChop contains ideas for integrating healthy eating or healthy cooking into the curriculum. For example in science class, if the kids are learning about emulsion, the teacher might use salad dressing as an example. Math teachers can make use of quantities of ingredients to teach addition and multiplication with questions like, “This recipe serves four – what do you need to do to make it serve 12?” Coupling recipes with language arts exercises is easy to do, too.
How can schools help support busy parents who want to do better when it comes to healthy eating?
Our hope is that kids who are using ChopChop in the classroom are coming home and inspiring their parents. If a child declares, “I want to roast carrots,” that parent has an opportunity to be a role model by saying yes. Kids can and are driving the conversation around healthy eating, as they often do for other issues, too, like helmet safety, recycling, smoking and seat belt safety.
ChopChop received the 2013 Publication of the Year Award from the James Beard Foundation, which honors “the best of the best in the food industry.” Why did they single you out?
The woman who introduced me at the awards ceremony said that there were very few initiatives in the food industry where organizations were really trying to impact this generation by getting them to cook, to take responsibility for their health. ChopChop is not just a glossy, beautiful food magazine. We’re really committed to making a difference.
Where can parents and educators find ChopChop?
It’s available by subscription. We just launched a package for schools – they can get 35 issues of ChopChop at a highly discounted rate of $40.00 by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That way everyone can have one – teachers, aides, gym teachers and nurses. Educators can also subscribe for $14.95 per year or they can order in bulk.
How do you spread the word about ChopChop?
We are a scrappy organization and we use every opportunity we can get! After I received the James Beard award, Mark Bittman wrote a New York Times column about us and our subscriptions tripled overnight. In Spring 2015, we are celebrating our 5th anniversary in conjunction with the 5th anniversary of Let’s Move, First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to solve childhood obesity within a generation. The First Lady will be on the spring cover of ChopChop and we’ll feature five meals everyone should know how to cook. We’re counting on great exposure!
Holiday Recipes from ChopChop
For a host of kid-centric recipes, visit the ChopChop recipes page. Here are a handful of recipes, in English and Spanish, that can add flair, fun and splendid nutrients to school and family festivities.
- Collard Roll-Ups
- Ensalada de Nochebuena
- Herby Lettuce Wraps
- La Mejor Compota de Manzana
- Rhubarberry Mash