Inspiration from Meghan

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Cook For A Cure? Sure! Pass Me More Fried Chicken.


Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation's 10th annual Cook For The Cure.

As you can imagine, this sounded like my kind of thing; a fundraiser that involved cooking for a cure!

The idea was that guests would give a $20 contribution which would include a complimentary glass of wine and dessert. They were asked to wear white,  pink accents would be provided and to bring their own food as part of the Pinknic.

I don't actually have any white clothes.

I spent some time wondering around, peeping in on what people brought, and chatting with some of the guests.

What I wanted to know from the people in attendance is what they were doing in their own  lives to help cook up a cure, or rather, working to prevent the disease in the first place.  I got a lot of blank stares and embarrassed declarations that they don't really think about it as much as they should.

When I asked if they knew where the funds for the evenings event were going, the blanket response was "research".

Apparently 2.1 million dollars has been raised through the Cook For The Cure initiative for breast cancer "research" since 2002 but no one seems to know just what that research is. There are grants being awarded and loads of products being painted pink but breast cancer rates continue to increase and treatment options don't seem to be improving or diversifying.

Could it be that there is a missing link with a lack of sound knowledge around prevention- namely- an awareness of what each and every one of us can do every day to reduce our risks?

On the Breast Cancer Foundation of Canada website it claims that "Since 2000, the Foundation has funded $12.1 million in research grants and training fellowships focussing on prevention and risk factors."

The only prevention related study mentions a connection between high fat diets and charbroiled food increasing the risk- but no further info was offered. Strangely, back in the fall when I was emailing the foundation about the current prevention related research being done, they told me they were sorry they hadn't gotten back to me but they were having problems with their email server. I still never got an answer.

Heres the thing. It's 2012 and this is what is listed as risk factors on the Cancer Foundation's website:

Non-modifiable Risk Factors Modifiable Risk Factors
Gender and age Body weight
Personal cancer history Physical activity
Family cancer history and genetics Alcohol use
Early menstruation and late menopause Smoking
Breast density Exposure to hormones: the Pill, IVF, and HRT
Breast conditions Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Radiation exposure

Did you see diet, cosmetics or cleaning products on those lists? Me neither! What about the fact that the food we eat impacts our Epigenetics- meaning our genetic expression, or how our DNA is going to work for us or against us?

The fact that the food and cancer connection is left out of the  "Cook For The Cure" event, may explain why this year's feature chef's table was laden with deep fried chicken, cheddar biscuits, platters of charcueteri (fancy word for cold cuts) and even a duck pie  for the Pinknic.

I am all for getting into the spirit of things and enjoying treats in the spirit of celebration. It gets a bit trickier when that spirit of celebration is working to raise funds for cancer research and the  very foods being served are known contributors to the development of the disease (remember the deep fried twinkles for Crohn's Disease).

I am going to assume that the deep fried chicken, cheddar biscuits, duck pie and charcuterie were all locally sourced and organic- but was this the best choice for a breast cancer fundraiser?

You may remember the hoopla from a few years ago when KFC was attempting to cash in the Breast Cancer theme with pink buckets of fried chicken?

Deep fried chicken, as well as BBQ'd, pan fried, and high heat grilled, all have been found to contain high levels of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), which are known carcinogens.

I am sure the fried chicken and biscuits were amazing if you like that, and at any other picnic? Fine, the choice is the eater's- but for a cancer fundraiser???

Aside from the pink accents, there was nothing about this event that seemed to connect it with a disease that will affect 1 in 9 women.

As with most Breast Cancer fundraising efforts- which includes everything from plastic bottled water, pink ribbon wine, and carrying sponsors like Revlon, PepsiCo, Kernels popcorn and Egg Farmers of Canada who all produce the very products that contribute to the modifiable risk factors of the disease- I'm thinking that "finding the cure" is a ways away. The search is just so lucrative.

If 12 million dollars hasn't found the cure, is 13 million going to do it?  20 million? How much are we going to give before we realize that maybe they're looking in the wrong places?

Given that our food and lifestyle choices are so closely connected with everything from the prevention of cancer right through to the recovery post medical intervention should we get sick, it would seem to me that this event and the hundreds of others just like it, are  prime opportunities to engage the public in how they could start to cook for the cure in their own lives.

For this Cook for the Cure event, easy things could have included:

  • Getting some local farms on board to lend greens to every table so everyone's Pinknic would include some fresh green salad.
  • Picnic suggestions sent out  upon registration that include meals and recipes with key cancer fighting foods.
  • Water fountains to offer the opportunity for guests to get water without needing it to come from plastic (BpA found in plastic bottles leaches synthetic estrogens and are linked with an increased risk of breast cancer).

The challenge with these types of fundraising events is that yes, in theory they are for great causes, and people donate so much time and resources to making them happen,  but are the organizations including the Breast Cancer Foundation of Canada really engaging the donors, who they rely on, to take precautions against the diseases for which they are fundraising? Are they really informing people on what can be done NOW, rather than once their cancer has been detected early? Early detection is not prevention! (Tweet today's tweetable)

The parting gift for this event was a garlic press. Fantastic. A total win as garlic works to prevent every kind of cancer out there. But  attached to the garlic press was a recipe for raspberry frosted cupcakes (a pink recipe of course)- loaded with white flour and sugar- the primary fuel to feed cancer.

It just doesn't connect.

I fully appreciate the importance of finding cures for these increasingly common diseases and the great work these foundations do in supporting people emotionally during recovery, but there is a consistent lack of attention being given to prevention and to the nutritional and lifestyle connection that not only helps prevent but can serve to ease and accelerate post operative/treatment recovery. To ignore this fundamental key to health is radically irresponsible.

Early detection, more effective treatments, new drugs, and new procedures, are great for those who choose that path- but with cancer rates only increasing every year, when does the importance start being placed on individual responsibility to own our health and strive to prevent the diseases in the first place? Again, I stress that early detection is not prevention! (Tweet it)

If you choose to support any fundraising organizations, I commend you for your generosity and also recommend that you take a close look at the financial reports and research projects for which you are funding to ensure that they really support what you want to be supporting.

24 Responses to “Cook For A Cure? Sure! Pass Me More Fried Chicken.”

  1. Dani said…
    This is a fantastic & comprehensive post Meghan, well done! I love your suggestions at making this event more 'prevention' friendly. Wondering if you have sent this off to The Breast Cancer Foundation of Canada and if they have responded?
  2. Catherine "Kitty" Green said…
    Meghan, Your article needs to get into the main stream media.. this is what is ruining our WORLD. I am sadly not shocked at the food served and the cup cake recipe with the garlic press.. ; ( Keep up your hard work, more and more people are listening.
  3. Pam said…
    Meghan, I agree with everything that has been said. You are so awesome for bringing this to people's attention. I wish you could just reach more people. But we have to start small. Sooner or later, you and Josh will reach the masses! Great work! Pam
  4. Jen said…
    Thank you for posting this. Literally hours ago I sent a link to my husband for a movie called, "Pink Ribbons, Inc". It is a story of the commercialization of the breast cancer movement and the exploitation of human generosity, hope and trust. I've known about these hidden agendas by corporate America for too long now and refuse to feel guilted into donating to pink events, in addition to MS and diabetes fundraisers. I think my coworkers and friends view me as heartless and don't even want to entertain the fact that these corporations do not have our best intentions at heart. Thank you for being a beacon of light...if there's anything I can do to help please let me know.
  5. Penelope said…
    Thank you for this post. My town had a Relay for Life at the beginning of the summer and the food being served was something like Subway sandwiches or Dunkin' Donuts. I was so appalled and wanted to say something, but felt that people simply wouldn't understand and that I'd be considered a kill-joy. I'm glad that you were brave enough to write about your experience and next time I will speak up too - I believe that I can say that with certainty. I do eat for prevention and my household is a nearly 100% organic produce household. This is a great recipe for the munchies: cut up cauliflower mixed well with a little sea salt, cayenne pepper, and lots of nutritional yeast. I throw it into a bag and shake it up and munch it like popcorn. It's gotten me through many afternoon crummy tummies.
  6. Kelly Childs said…
    VERY WELL written.... I must applaud you for doing this and being able to stomach the gross misdirection of people's minds and sickening misuse of money. They are stealing from people's hearts and souls and I just am OUTRAGED (as Lisa would say) :) The greed that breeds this twisted way to raise money for their own pocketbooks makes me REALLY want to do something to take off the 'angelic' masks that cover and protect the corporations that these 'well meaning' philanthropists spend their time supporting. UGH. Sigh. GREAT job Meghan!!! Really fantastic. Kelly xo
  7. Joyce said…
    Bravo Meghan! I forwarded this to many people. Well done!
  8. Gillian said…
    There's a new documentary that speaks volumes about these issues: Scary how Estee Lauder took over (a company that sells toxic beauty products) and so many companies with cancer causing ingredients benefit from the pink ribbon. Great post!
  9. Andrea said…
    I agree 100% and love your ideas about what they could have done differently. Maybe next year they'll take your suggestions. Looking at the photos and reading the description of the event and based on past experience, it occurs to me that most people were probably there for the food and for many, the cause was secondary. People like to eat. People like going to events. Non-profit organizations leverage these two interests. As long as they get their money, it doesn't matter. People are so used to their day-to-day eating that it doesn't occur to them to bring something healthy to such an event. I'm not saying this to be skeptical or pessimistic, I'm saying it because I've been to many food events over the years, many of them fundraisers. Sometimes the message of the cause even gets lost in the event (though that doesn't appear to be the case here). We (the Making Love in the Kitchen community) know about pink-washing and that prevention needs to be promoted more. Every time you blog about it is an opportunity to reopen this important dialogue, to educate new people and to keep the conversation going. We can't lose the message. Thanks for continuing to call attention to it.
  10. Angela said…
    Wonderful article! I couldn't agree more and I also think that this should be published in the mainstream media as well so people can become more informed and actually question where the money they are donating is actually going towards. I stopped giving to ANY cancer cause years ago because of the simple fact that the money was going towards "research". I assumed that this meant to Big Pharma and the research of cancer drugs as a treatment and not on prevention at all. I believe there is no magical " cure" for cancer but instead a complete lifestyle change that needs to be initiated BEFORE one is diagnosed. Keep up the great work!

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