Here, Topaz Page-Green, The Lunchbox Fund founder, chats with actress and artist Mickey Sumner about why she chose to host this fashion and wellness-driven philanthropic event:
Topaz Page-Green: Can you share what it is about The Lunchbox Fund that speaks to you?
Mickey Sumner: Listen, we’re talking about a basic human right, which is to eat; to have sustenance. I'm going to speak for myself and you, Topaz, and say that our primary question day-to-day is: “What are we eating today? A bowl of pasta, a salad, sushi?” We rarely, if ever, have to ask, like millions of men, women and children in this world, “Where is my next meal coming from?” That just should not happen. Those of us lucky enough to live in places where food is not a scarcity need to work together to make sure that the children of the world are being fed good food, and that meals are available to them daily. I cannot live in a world where I know that some people have way to much food, and some have absolutely nothing. This is a serious problem. It is time for change.
TPG: You’ve always been incredibly present with The Lunchbox Fund. Is that because the charity work speaks to you or (laughing) because you’re my friend?
MS: Topaz, you've definitely pulled me in and inspired me. I couldn’t believe when I first met you that you were feeding a few thousand at-risk school children every day. It just blew my mind. And I’ve seen you work tirelessly for this and increase the number of kids you’re feeding per day to 15,000! Wow, Topaz.
What I love about The Lunchbox Fund is that it is so easy to see how effective it is. It only costs 25 cents to feed one school child in South Africa every day. You can’t buy anything in the U.S. for 25 cents. Most of us have that change rattling around in the bottom of our purses or pockets. That feeds a child every day. It’s so effective. And I think you make that connection really clear. What you did with The Lunchbox Fund’s Feedie App is really inspiring too: an app that takes a photo that you took of a meal and turns it into money for a child's meal. It’s great. It’s so inspiring. My only regret so far is that I have not been to South Africa with you yet to visit the kids and women involved in doing this amazing work.
TPG: What inspired you to become so health-conscious, and why is nutrition so important to you personally?
MS: There are two parts to this answer. Part 1: My mother was really integral to my general understanding that what you put into your body matters. She was a real pioneer of eating organic food, way before Whole Foods or before it was fashionable. We moved to an organic farm when I was about 9. At school, we were the weird kids who had organic food in our lunch boxes that other kids thought tasted like cardboard. My mother was really strict about what we put into our bodies because she really understood what a difference it made to our well-being and healthy development. And I'm so grateful to her now for giving us this gift and education so young. I was brought up with the awareness that eating well is directly related to having a healthy brain, having energy and being happy!
Part 2: Four years ago, I became very sick with what I found out later was Lyme Disease. I saw a bunch of doctors and the vast majority of them didn't mention diet as an important factor. I knew there was a massive problem with this, and that maybe it couldn't cure me, but by changing my diet, I could make myself feel way better. So, I researched. I became an Internet freak. And I found a community of people suffering from the same thing I was/am and learned what was working for them nutritionally. And I realized that I had to change my diet in a massive and profound way. For instance, I had to remove sugar from my diet completely. Alcohol too (although occasionally I have a tequila to celebrate: you have to live a little!), and gluten and dairy. So, I am really conscious about what I put in my body and also about where my food comes from. I want to ensure that I make conscious, responsible choices about what I buy and what I eat.
TPG: I would say that you went from exploring this world slowly to completely outpacing me in terms of alternative wellness choices that are constructive for the body versus destructive. I’ve learned a lot from you in terms of diet and alternative treatments; you’ve definitely plumbed the depths of this.
MS: I think when you’re sick and you’re not getting the answers that you want and you realize that your health is not actually the responsibility of a doctor—it is your responsibility because it’s your body—and there is no silver bullet, you realize that you have to make sacrifices. Maybe, for example, you won’t be able to eat ice-cream anymore and you realize that you have to take this on. You can either let it defeat you or you can become a master in and of your own body. It is empowering. I wish more people understood that they have the power and that, if they’re sick, it’s up to them to take control.
I now look at doctors as guides and collaborators. Before I commit to any doctor, I ask: “Are you going to collaborate with me on this?” which I think is really important because, if they are not, then they are the wrong doctor for me.
We are conditioned by society to think that doctors know best, so we have cut out our own instincts about what is going on in our own bodies. Our bodies know what feels good, what feels bad; you just have to listen. We have somehow forgotten how to listen and, despite the fact that the last four years with this disease have been really tough, I am grateful for all the things I am learning about food, health and my own body.
TPG: How do you think nutrition can facilitate moving underprivileged kids out of poverty?
MS: You say it all the time, Topaz: Your brain can’t grow, you can’t concentrate, you can’t live a full life if you are malnourished. We need food to function. And these children deserve and need to fulfill their potential and live as full and beautiful lives as anyone. They are the future. It is devastating to me that we live in a world where malnourishment and starvation are still very real problems. Every single human being deserves to be fed. We have enough food, and it is time to learn how to share. And if you can’t physically hand someone a bowl of food, take that dollar or take that 25 cents that is sitting at the bottom of your bag and give it to The Lunchbox Fund. It’s so easy!!
TPG: I second that emotion!
MS: It is so easy! You could probably feed ten kids with the change at the bottom of your purse. Eating is about coming together, about being a community, about being social. For me, there was always so much joy around food. And I want everyone to have that and share that. If we’re not doing that, we’re not being human! Let's be human!