“Maybe the way you’re going about this is wrong,” a colleague in a similar industry said to me after reviewing Balanced’s School Scorecard. “Maybe you should be more collaborative and less combative.”
Maybe (although, to be fair, we reached out to every single school district on the list before publishing the scores in an attempt to be collaborative)
Or maybe, I’m staring down the barrel of a public health crisis that is on track to kill another 700,000 people in the US again this year. An epidemic that is close to all but ensuring this generation of kids won’t live as long as their parents. A problem that denies people their opportunity to heal and develop healthy habits.
Or maybe I’m just fighting like hell to fix a food system that has yet to be swayed solely through collaboration.
Here’s the thing about accountability: it’s uncomfortable. It should be. It has to be. Without discomfort, there is rarely growth. Sure, collaboration feels better. Trust me, I would love to collaborate more with key decision makers. 100% open to it. Would welcome it with open arms. Entirely prepared to do it should the opportunity arise. And I absolutely believe collaboration is a critical element of success, but so are unrelenting high expectations. The truth is, I don’t enjoy the parts of my job that result in angry phone calls and biting emails. That doesn’t feel good.
But I’m less concerned with what feels good and more concerned with what does good.
At Balanced, when we talk about accountability, we aren’t talking about making people uncomfortable for no reason. We’re talking about raising the expectations for what we deserve and what we’re capable of. We’re talking about literally saving lives.
Imagine looking at your newborn baby and saying to them, “In 30 years, you’re going to begin experiencing a bevy of completely preventable diet-related diseases because I didn’t want to make someone uncomfortable at their job.”
For me at least, as a mother, it’s a moral imperative that I speak up. Not only on behalf of my child, but for all children.
Just because diet-related diseases develop and progress more slowly than other epidemics does not mean the impact and suffering are any less real or acute. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other diet-related diseases rob families of time with their loved ones, and can make the lives of the people we love (or ourselves) more difficult and painful.
Fortunately, diet-related disease is nearly always preventable. But we can only do so much within our homes to safeguard our families from heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, etc… Until more of our food environments are balanced and reflective of a system that values our health, we will struggle to turn the tide on the leading cause of disease, disability, and premature death in the US.
So, maybe I’m too mean, forthright, or unyielding. Or maybe I’m just unafraid to believe we deserve better.