Bettina Elias Siegal used to be an intellectual property and advertising attorney in New York. These days, the mother-of-two lives a mellower life in Houston, but she isn’t done presenting her case.
These days, Siegal is battling for good nutrition in public schools. She is a member of the Houston Independent School District’s Food Services Parent Advisory Committee and Student Health Advisory Council, which sees her working on the ground to bring about positive change in the district’s cafeterias, classrooms and campuses.
But she’s also well-known in the childhood obesity prevention community for her popular blog, The Lunch Tray
, which chronicles her efforts to improve food in her local schools but also serves as a place to discuss larger issues in the movement. The blog, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary, has been highlighted by celebrity food fighters Jamie Oliver and Rachel Ray for its efforts to combat childhood obesity.
“I want to cover all the bases,” she says. “I want to talk obesity, I want to cover school food reform… I really want to have a forum for people to talk about these issues, and I really try to invite all points of view.”
Siegal’s interest in school nutrition began when she first volunteered for the parents’ advisory committee on nutrition issues. She jokes that at first she “felt like a complete fraud” because her own kids didn’t eat the school lunches, but Siegal was motivated because of what the schools were dishing out.
One example: At the time, animal crackers were given to students for breakfast because they met an iron requirement.
So Siegal stayed involved at the school level, and eventually began working with community members to help with school nutrition reform efforts, including on improving the treats that students get fed in classrooms on special days (think: cupcakes and candy).
Siegal launched The Lunch Tray as a forum for her thoughts on school reform efforts, but she also focuses on good nutrition as a whole. Along with keeping readers updated on school nutrition issues such as the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (and its current implementation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture), Siegal also uses the blog to look at ways to sneak healthy food into the meals of picky eaters, for example.
“I hope people are enjoying it,” Siegal tells The Inside Track. “I feel like they are. People comment, they really want to comment… Truly, I feel like I built this car and now it’s driving me.”
Along with her gig as a top childhood obesity blogger, Siegal also works as a freelance writer, penning pieces for magazines such as Self andParents. And she admits she works to make sure her own kids, ages 11 and 8, eat healthy. Fortunately, her kids have a “super adventurous” palate, Siegal says.
“You can take them to a Bosnian restaurant, you can take them to an Ethiopian restaurant, and they’re thrilled,” she says.