ChopChop, the Nutritional Literacy Self-Help Magazine for Kids

Girl in Hat Eating an Apple

There are 28 million school-age children in the U.S., Sally Sampson says, and she wants every single one of them to have a copy of her magazine, ChopChop, whose mission is to reverse and prevent childhood obesity. It’s a quarterly, and the first issue came out in April of 2010, aimed at an audience of 5-to-12-year-olds. Sampson, the publication’s founder and president, says,

ChopChop’s mission is to educate kids to cook and be nutritionally literate, and to empower them to establish better eating habits for a lifetime of good nutrition. Our vision is to reverse and prevent childhood obesity, and our goal is to get a copy in the hands of every child.

Sampson has always been into food. She wrote 11 cookbooks and co-authored several more, and has contributed articles to such magazines as Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Fine Cooking. When one of her daughters, now a teenager, was born with a very rare chronic medical condition, Sampson began to focus more on nutrition and the health care field in general.

That daughter, Lauren, had an inspired idea when she was only seven. She wanted to bring her little red wagon full of gifts into the hospital, and distribute the toys to the other young patients. At that point, Sampson founded a nonprofit called Kid2Kid, which was later revived to be the entity under which ChopChop was organized.

Somewhere along the way, the entrepreneurial food writer realized that her skills could be put to good use in helping to stem the tide of the childhood obesity epidemic. She consulted with her son’s pediatrician, who was enthusiastic. He talked to his young patients about the importance of nutrition, of course, but a magazine full of recipes would be a tangible tool, something he could actually hand them to take home and use.

Envisioned first as a pamphlet, ChopChop grew to become a regular magazine that would promote nutritional literacy and, more importantly, encourage children to take some responsibility for maintaining their own health. Preparing the recipes and doing the activities in its pages would give kids and their parents or other caregivers something to do together, which is always a plus.

As the idea grew and took shape, Sampson brought on board photographer Carl Tremblay, who had done the illustrations for five of her cookbooks already. She convinced friends and connections in the health care field to join the advisory board. Sampson says,

I read everything on obesity I could get my hands on and if someone struck me as smart or interesting, I called them… We got kids to try out recipes, read and review text, test mazes and word searches, and model for the magazine.

Word spread among pediatricians nationwide, who were alerted by her son’s pediatrician via his extensive email list. Many people offered pro-bono support, including not only medical professionals but those in the fields of marketing and publishing. The magazine obtained an endorsement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and accumulated sponsors, such as New Balance Foundation, J.R. Albert Foundation, Stoneyfield Organic, Boston Children’s, Children’s Health Foundation, American Heart Association, the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, and Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, among others.

The print run for the first issue was 150,000 copies, increased to 200,000 for the second issue. ChopChop found distribution in every state, through farmers’ markets, after-school programs, pediaticians’ offices, municipal anti-obesity programs, food banks, and retail chains such as Whole Food Markets. A one-year subscription is $14.95. (How does that work? If it’s a nonprofit endeavor, how can it charge money? If it has such great support from all those sponsors, why does it need to charge money?)

Sampson mentions an instance where she went against her advisors and included in the magazine a recipe for a traditional Asian rice porridge called congee. In the cultures where congee is familiar, it’s usually considered a breakfast dish, or an easily-digested meal for a sick person, or a comfort food. As things turned out, congee became one of the favorite recipes adopted by ChopChop‘s audience.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Secret Weapon Against Childhood Obesity: A Magazine,” The Atlantic, 10/08/10
Image by Pink Sherbet Photography (D. Sharon Pruitt), used under its Creative Commons license.

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