Real Leaders

Changing Communities, One Healthy Meal at a Time

Getting diagnosed with type 2 diabetes made Chad Cherry abruptly rethink his relationship with food. He took the increased risks of blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke so seriously that he decided to become a chef, to learn how to combat the poor diet he’d become accustomed to.

Amazingly, the hospital that treated him failed to mention poor diet as a contributing factor to his illness. Our health systems are designed to medicate once symptoms appear, not educate people on their lifestyle choices – that may lead to illness, or even death.

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Cherry researched his condition online and connected the dots between what he was eating and his diabetes. He turned to organic ingredients and cut highly processed foods from his diet and within a few months started seeing and feeling the difference. When he met his wife Karen, she complained of severe abdominal pains each time she ate but was fine after eating Chad’s newly discovered food. “I said, ‘I’ll feed you every day!’” recalls Cherry with a laugh, and so they married and embarked on a healthy eating adventure that culminated in their company, Refresh Live. The couple call themselves farm-to-table consultants and have already racked up celebrity clients, including personal chef to the Kardashians, Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, rapper Ace Hood and has also fed Barack and Michelle Obama.

Their goal is to refresh people’s relationship, knowledge and experience of food with healthier, locally-grown produce. Standing in the center of any major American city you’d assume that food is never far from reach. Fast food culture has placed a McDonalds, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts or Taco Bell on almost every city block. While convenient for a quick meal, it’s given rise to “food deserts” – areas with limited access to fresh and nutritious food. They occur especially in areas with low-income and minority residents, and the processed, sugary and fat-laden foods are known contributors to the country’s obesity epidemic. As part of their program, Chad and Karen include awareness on fast food brands that groom people from an early age to crave it.

Food deserts that stretch for five miles in every direction, lack of mobility and financial constraints can result in someone eating whatever they find at the overpriced, corner store – that only stocks highly processed food. Slick marketing will have you believe that eating fresh, healthy food is based on just changing your behavior, but in reality, many people are victims of socio-economic circumstances and don’t have a choice. Even with better food options around, Chad reckons the country still has a long way to go. “What we label ‘organic’ in America is still lower quality than what Europeans consider regular grade – everyday food found in unhyped-up food stores across Europe. 

“When communities say ‘we have issues’ they never get specific,” says Karen. “Food is one such issue. Our diets have been constructed by lobby groups and industries, and it’s time to claim our health back. No one’s coming to save your health; you need to do it yourself.”

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