t’s the perennial problem of parents across the world: how do we make kids eat their fruit and veg? Alice Zaslavsky and her partner Nick Fallu believe they’ve got an answer. And it lies in broad-scale education to change the way we talk about food.
“It’s the first thing we discuss when we wake up,” Alice explains. “And it’s the last thing we talk about when we go to sleep,” adds Nick. “We want to change the way people see their food,” Alice says. “Just as a musician can read notes, we want kids to be able to read food and understand its effect on their bodies”.
Alice, who is a teacher-turned pop-culture food personality, author and TV host, grew up in the former USSR. “Some of my earliest food memories are of empty shop shelves and ration tickets,” she reveals. “The only way we got quality food was to grow it ourselves.” She remembers watching her grandfather grow food at his dacha(weekender property) back in the 1980s. It was there the family preserved, pickled and feasted as best they could.
Because of this, Alice, who moved to Australia when she was almost seven, has always been passionate about connecting people with food, especially children. Nick, who was born and raised in Melbourne says that his family was always “very focused on eating well”, particularly during his years of playing competitive football. Because of this he’s always been interested in food and health.
During her years of teaching, Alice found that children’s diets were severely lacking in fresh food. She says this is due in large part, to the way food is taught and spoken about. “The home economics classes we grew up with are no longer,” she explains. “Kids think fruit and veg are boring. 95% of Aussie kids aren’t getting their recommended intake of vegetables every day”.
The former Dep. Head of Humanities says that when she was teaching, her students became particularly engaged when food was used as a hook. Not only were they paying more attention in class, but their language and behaviour toward food and eating changed.
Alice pitched a food and culture elective to be added to the curriculum. “I enrolled in a Chef-at-Home course through William Angliss to up-skill, Alice says, “and just as the course was coming to an end, the same building was holding the auditions for MasterChef”. That was back in 2012. Alice leapt in, thinking that her elective may have ‘more uptake’ if students saw her on TV.
Alice’s run on MasterChef was so successful that her classroom-teaching career would be short-lived. Realising that a bigger impact could be made, Alice went on to develop her media profile as an author, food editor, live presenter, and TV show host, all the while staying focused on her goal of “Teacher but Bigger”.
She would soon get her opportunity to make this a reality, with a challenge from Hort Innovation (the research and development corporation representing the Australian Horticulture Industry): ‘How do you make vegetables cool for kids?’. Nick stepped back from his career as a health practitioner to oversee the project, and the duo spent the next 18 months putting together a team and developing ‘Phenomenom’, a digital tool kit that helps teachers and parents make real food appealing to kids.
“Pop culture and social media has definitely played a role in (Phenomenom’s) success”, Alice says. “The data we’ve captured through that speaks for itself. Kids change their behaviour when language is changed”.
Nick and Alice believe that Rocket Seeder is the ‘next step’ to helping them develop a sustainable business model to continue building resources and food literacy partnerships beneath their brand A – Z Food Lit.“Ultimately, we want kids to genuinely be excited about fresh food” Alice says. “Changing language is paramount. Harnessing technology, we want kids salivating over brussels sprouts”.