Saturday, January 19, 2019

Local Heroes: Erin Baker + Help Feed 1 Million Kids

Eating well and doing good, a Q+A.

There seems no better time than the very end of Hunger Action Month™ to spotlight Erin Baker (of Erin Baker’s Wholesome Baked Goods). As the name might suggest, Erin’s company aims to bake with simple, all-natural, whole food ingredients while changing childhood obesity “one breakfast at a time.” Her products are incredibly tasty (trust us!), her passion is palpable, and her motto is simple: “Small acts of compassion, when multiplied, will change the world.”

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Q: Can you quickly sum up how your business came to be?

With the last name Baker, it was only a matter of time before I fulfilled my undeniable destiny! I am fortunate to have a talented mom who also happens to be a real foodie. I spent my childhood observing my mom doing it “old school”—growing food of all kinds and then canning, drying and preserving for eating all year long.

In fact, in 1994, I rented the 4-H kitchen at the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds and created The Original Breakfast Cookie, my own spin on the healthful oatmeal cakes my mom baked and sent me to school with daily. From my childhood to time spent in San Francisco in my early teens and 20’s, I was inspired and educated by people who celebrated the importance of whole foods and demonstrated how to cook and bake with them. That same philosophy has carried me to where I am today, and I’m just getting started!

Q: Why is sourcing whole food ingredients from local farms and vendors so important to you?

I founded the company in 1994 with a commitment to use only simple, nutritious, whole food ingredients—ingredients like flour from Shepherd’s Grain, as well as many others that are sourced locally to our bakery. If you haven’t heard of them, Shepherd’s Grain is a group of Northwest farmers committed to no-till farming, a sustainable practice that improves soil quality while reducing erosion and fuel consumption.

What we put into our bodies is important, and I seek out purveyors who not only provide the best products, but also research and employ new farming techniques that change the world in order to feed future generations. Additionally, sourcing as local as possible and producing everything under our own roof allows us to bake fresh to order, ensuring the most delicious Breakfast Cookies and Granola you can find!

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Q: What is the basic premise behind the Help Feed 1 Million Kids Program?

I began the Help Feed 1 Million Kids Program with the same goal I had when I started Erin Baker’s—to make a difference in peoples’ lives with the healthy food I make. The United States is facing a national crisis due to low fitness and high obesity rates in our young people. In fact, an estimated 17% of children in the United States are now considered obese. This is a problem that will only get worse if we don’t take action with ourselves, at home and in our communities.

To help combat this issue, we work in alliance with The Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington State towards the goal of feeding one million kids. In fact, every purchase of our products goes towards feeding kids in need, so anyone can join in and help! The program started when I noticed kids were arriving to the Whatcom County Boys & Girls Club without the most important meal of the day, so I stepped in with my Breakfast Cookie Minis as a solution. We now donate 10,000 cookies a month across 18 clubs in Washington State!

My commitment to eating healthier has changed my life, and my passion is fueled by my own experience. If we show kids the way by providing them with healthier options and removing the unhealthy ones … it will catch on with them just as it did with me. If we change their food… it will change their lives!

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Q: How can readers get involved or follow this lifestyle themselves?

Every purchase of our products goes towards feeding kids in need; it’s that simple. This means we can all take action now to make a difference. In addition to eating wholesome, balanced meals, indulging every once in a while is important too! Healthy eating is all about moderation, so don’t deny yourself the foods you love. Also, snacking between meals can curb hunger and satisfy cravings. Why not try our Breakfast Cookie Minis when a craving strikes? At 100 calories per serving, the all-natural 1-oz. cookies contain protein, antioxidants, fiber and complex carbohydrates—a sweet, yet compact way to get through the day!

By living a healthy lifestyle, one that involves living in the moment, working out, getting a good night’s sleep, spending time outside and staying hydrated, you are on your way to being your best self every day!

Q: In what ways have you recently seen the conversation changing about healthy eating, especially for kids?

Consumers have increasingly demanded more transparency when it comes to the food they eat, and that encompasses everything from the pesticides used on crops to the call for simple ingredients and banning unnecessary artificial colors and flavors.

The USDA’s 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines provides small changes we can all make to improve our health, from swapping simple grains to whole grains to filling half the plate with fruits and vegetables. When you combine this with organizations like Let’s Move and Play 60, the conversation has indeed changed to one that addresses parent’s concerns on feeding their kids healthful, nourishing food and spending less time spent in front of the TV.

I’ve been baking “all natural” long before it became the movement it is today, and I’m proud to say you will never find artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners or preservatives at my bakery. We are committed to providing great-tasting, on-the-go food you can feel good about.

Q: What fuels your passion and keeps you going when you face roadblocks and frustrations?

The challenges that come with running a business pale in comparison to the elation I feel every day doing what I love and helping adults and kids eat healthier on-the-go. In addition to the estimated 17 percent of children in the U.S. who are obese, there are families in our own communities who are nutritionally starved. According to the Bellingham Food Bank, local to me, there are nearly 1 in 4 kids in Whatcom County that are food insecure, meaning their parents don’t always know if they’ll have enough food to put on the table, or where their food will come from. By partnering with organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs, I’m trying to do my part to make a difference in these children’s lives and ensure they receive the nutrition they need and deserve.

Q: How would you encourage others to pursue their own “small acts of compassion”?

I would encourage everyone to find opportunities that align with their passions, and then go out there and give back. People feel good when they do good, and research shows that giving back is good for you emotionally and physically, so it’s a win-win! I always say, small acts of compassion, when multiplied, will change the world. My mission is to help feed nutritionally starved youth and teach them healthy eating habits they will carry throughout their lives… what’s yours?

 

About Corinne Whiting

Corinne, an east coast native who relocated here from the other Washington in 2011, was bit by the travel bug early on. She lived in Strasbourg, France (during her junior year at Georgetown University) and in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she got a masters degree in Cultural Studies. She feels very grateful to have explored incredible spots on our globe ranging from Bolivia and Egypt to Turkey and China, but there are passport pages yet to fill (and travel tales yet to be written!). After serving as associate editor at Where magazine in D.C. for five years, Corinne has embarked on a new adventure here in the PNW as a freelance writer and photographer, contributing to publications like National Geographic Traveler, the Alaska Airlines in-flight magazine, Amtrak's OnTrak, 1889 Washington, 1859 Oregon, Visit Seattle and so on. She loves exploring this incredible corner of the country while debunking the rain myths, upping her coffee quotient, hearing heaps of live music and finding her Zen near the water as often as possible.
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