We all know how to eat well, but it's easier said than done in the United States, where every day, new research tells us how our bodies are groaning under the weight of our harried lives.

Share story

In the war on childhood obesity, Susie Murphy is a four-star general.

As principal at Beacon Hill International School, Murphy has banned cupcakes. Banned.

Instead, her kids celebrate birthdays by feasting on fruit, vegetables and fresh juices.

And when it’s time to fundraise, you won’t see Murphy’s kids peddling candy bars or cookie dough, but pledges for a schoolwide walkathon.

Most Read Stories

3-course dinners for $32 starting April 2.

It sounds like a buzz kill (Kids without cake? What would Little Debbie say?). But Murphy is seeing signs of improvement everywhere: slimmer staff members, healthier kids and parents who are willing to drop the chip bag and chop produce.

“It’s been slow in coming,” Murphy said, “but it’s been a revolution at this school.”

So it made sense that when Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn wanted to show off how the city had spent $1.8 million in federal grants aimed at improving access to healthful food, he started at Murphy’s school.

Beacon Hill International is piloting a program called Farm to Table, which connects local farmers with school nutrition providers and child-care centers. The schools use the produce to create meals, build curriculum and invite parents to potluck meals — and then hope the lessons go home with everyone.

It’s tough work to persuade low-income parents to spend more to eat better, said Caryn Swan Jamero, head of the Community Day School Association, which is helping bring Farm to Table to other child-care centers.

“But if they have seen some recipes that work and the kids like it,” she said, “I think we can build inroads.”

On Thursday, a gaggle of kids sat around a table covered with boxes from Full Circle Farm, while about 25 adults watched them lift the lids and pull out huge bags of deep-red radishes and greens.

“This is like Christmas,” said Full Circle CEO Andrew Stout.

Seemed so; within minutes, the kids were crunching away.

We all know how to eat well, but it’s easier said than done in the United States, where every day, new research tells us how our bodies are groaning under the weight of our harried lives.

The federal grant money and the four programs it has funded obviously help, but it is people like Murphy who are making change.

Doesn’t hurt that McGinn is the picture of healthful eating. He has lost 50 pounds since last summer through “clean living,” he told me, along with low-carbs, lots of vegetables and exercise.

After singing the praises of kale and sweet potatoes, and telling the kids not to steal doughnuts (you had to be there), McSlim moved on to the Farmer’s Market and Grocery on Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, where owner Nikodemus Teklu is fighting his own battle to sell better food without risking profits.

Teklu is part of the Healthy Foods Here program, which was funded by the same grant as Farm to Table. It helps business owners market and sell more produce, purchase equipment, work with suppliers and get certified to accept WIC and EBT benefits.

Teklu told McGinn how he ate junk food for a week straight and couldn’t sleep.

“It’s not benefiting nobody, the junk food,” he told McGinn, who nodded along, then spent $5.98 on beans, garlic and a cup of coffee before heading out.

“Nice guy, 100 percent,” Teklu said, straightening a basket of oranges outside the store.

A half-block down the road, I saw what Teklu was up against: McDonald’s, where 20 Chicken McNuggets were just $4.99.

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.