For Todd Grinnell, actions speak louder than words. The Massachusetts-native was raised to prize health consciousness and social responsibility above all else, eating cleanly but with an adventurous spirit and passionately supporting the causes one believes in. After college, he moved to LA, where he has since worked as an actor. But, about eight years ago, those ingrained values reared their heads, and he went in search of a higher calling in addition to his film and TV work. He began dedicating time to an organization called The Next Right Thing, literally traveling to countries around the world to scoop up children in need of lifesaving surgeries, take them to the US for those procedures and then deliver them safely home. Not only did this reawaken an even greater need to spread a kind of physical and emotional wellness throughout the world, but, a trip to Liberia with fellow actor and pal Ryan Devlin raised concerns about Severe Acute Malnutrition among children too. Now, Grinnell, Devlin and yet another performer buddy, Ravi Patel, have teamed up to create This Bar Saves Lives—a kind of Toms shoes model of giving back. For each healthful snack bar purchased, the company (with support from Save The Children) donates an ultra nourishing packet of something called Plumpy’Nut to children in need. Here, Grinnell tells us about his path to giving back, demonstrating how true wellness can be at once personal and global, physical and spiritual.
Nora: Did you grow up health conscious and also doing charity work?
Todd: I grew up in a very active, healthy family. Both my parents are extremely health-conscious. They're at the gym all the time. My mother is a competitive rower at 65 years old and my father plays tennis and does yoga. They're also big foodies. All this has been passed onto me. We were always taught to eat clean but adventurous, spend as much time outside as possible and exercise everyday. My mother is also an anti-nuclear activist, so it's been ingrained in me that the key to happiness is to give back in the world. I've found it works.
Nora: How did that background, and other charity work you've done, land you doing what you're doing now?
Todd: I've been an actor for the last fifteen years, which can be a little narcissistic at times. So, about 8 years ago, I got an itch to be more involved in the world and do something to help people. I started telling anyone and everyone I knew that I wanted to volunteer with kids. Pretty soon I was working with an organization called The Next Right Thing, which I now spearhead with the women who started it. We find children around the world who need life-saving surgeries, organize free medical treatment for them and then fly them back and forth to the US for their surgeries. That work eventually led me to other projects, one of which was raising money and overseeing the rebuilding of a bridge for a remote village in Liberia. It was on this trip that my friend, Ryan Devlin, and I happened to tour a refugee camp for Liberians displaced by civil war and came face-to-face with Plumpy'Nut for the first time. We had seen a 60 Minutes piece by Anderson Cooper on the nutrients and were struck by how they worked in real life. It's really a miracle for children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), the most dire case of hunger, because it doesn't have to be refrigerated, cooked or mixed with water. It takes a child who is literally moments away from death to a healthy, plump, happy baby in ten weeks. The thing that really struck us was that they were running out of Plumpy'Nut at this camp and didn't have the resources to get more. It was heartbreaking to see these kids literally wasting away and have no way to help them. Months after we got home from that trip, Ryan called me and said, "I have an idea to start a ‘one for one’ company, so we can give away Plumpy'Nut.” I was in.
Nora: In order to create these bars, did you need to have a kind of personal health consciousness too? How do you integrate wellness into your own life?
Todd: There are three of us founders at This Bar Saves Lives (TBSL): myself, Ryan and our other buddy, Ravi Patel. We're all very health-conscious. I run, meditate and surf as much as I can. Ryan is an avid cyclist and rock climber. Ravi is into yoga, volleyball and I'm trying to get him on a surfboard. And, as a result of being acutely informed about all things related to global hunger and nutrition, we're all concerned with the amount and quality of food we put into our bodies. Ryan is a devout vegetarian and, while Ravi and I eat meat, we all stick to organic, ethically sourced, simple whole foods. And balance is critical to us as our business grows and we become increasingly busy. Personally, I've always felt balance is the key to life. It's the biggest tool in my box to stay connected to my authentic self. I need to exercise, spend time with people I love and also take time to treat myself to the things and activities that inspire me.
Nora: Everyone has obstacles to their overall health/wellness. In your life, what's your greatest obstacle and what tip would you offer to people who aspire to health but come up against temptation?
Todd: I work hard and lose track of boundaries sometimes, so life can very quickly become unbalanced. I try to set healthy boundaries in all areas of my life. Other than that, I have a huge sweet tooth. It's hard to say “no” sometimes. Someone once told me not to think of it as quitting sugar, as much as “healthing.” So for me, it's all about perspective.
Nora: Can you tell us about how your company came about?
Todd: This Bar Saves lives is a one for one company: for every bar we sell, we give a packet of life-saving food to a child in need. That means that every time someone buys one of our bars, we help to save a child’s life. Our slogan: “Buy a bar. Feed a Child. We eat together.” The life-saving food we give to children in need is called Plumpy’Nut. It’s essentially a packet of peanut butter fortified with vitamins and protein. It’s been called a miracle cure for the hunger crisis. Our giving partner is Save The Children (STC). With boots on the ground in over 120 countries, STC is one of the largest non-profit child advocacy organizations in the world. They distribute Plumpy’Nut around the globe where it’s needed most. Right now, the focus is on countries in Africa, India and Haiti.
Nora: What makes the bars themselves so healthy?
Todd: We believe food should be food. We spent years developing our recipes with a focus on quality and nutrition. Our bars are made from all-natural, non-GMO ingredients, ethically sourced from the best farms around. Our Wild Blueberry Pistachio and Madagascar Vanilla, Almond and Honey bars each incorporate a small amount of 100% certified organic honey, but are otherwise vegan.
Nora: What do you see as the future of this organization/company?
Todd: Over 2.6 million children die each year as a result of Severe Acute Malnutrition. That's one child every twelve seconds. So, we hope that one day we're a global company so our power to give can be a worldwide effort.
Nora: Where are the bars currently available and how can people get involved?
Todd: Right now the easiest place to buy our bars is on our website: www.thisbarsaveslives.com But keep an eye out at the coolest spots in your area because we’ll be popping up really soon.
Nora: What does happiness look like to you?
Todd: Happiness looks like letting go, following the fun, giving back to those less fortunate, loving my friends and family and spending as much time at the beach as possible.
Nora: How do you "Live The Process" every day?
Todd: On my best days, I trust fate/the universe/God—whatever you want to call it. I say “yes” to anything and everything. And I take as many chances as possible with a huge smile on my face.