Lunchbox September Hero: Singer/Songwriter Joan Huntsberry Langford!

Submitted and Written by Melanie Potack

If this LunchBox Hero were a super hero, she would wear a red checkered cape reminiscent of the table cloths we like to spread on the lawn at family picnics.  It would be embroidered with a bounty of favorite foods: a rainbow of fruits, vegetables, curly-cue pastas and probably an almond butter and jelly sandwich, maybe on gluten-free bread. As it waved in the breeze across her shoulders, delicate musical notes would emerge at first, but when she leapt from one school cafeteria to another with a single bound,  you might hear a silly operetta about peas, or a little Latin number about the rhythms of the kitchen or even a soulful blues song about – you guessed it -  blueberries!

Who is this champion of adventurous eating spreading joy across our planet? It’s Super Joan!  Okay, it’s really Joan Huntsberry Langford, but to me, she is a true super hero. You see, my career is centered around my passion in life: teaching children to be brave and daring eaters. As a feeding specialist, I help kids choose to eat a variety of foods instead of getting stuck in a mire of chicken nuggets, day after day. It was truly serendipity that brought Joan and I together. As I worked with one of my little clients in his family’s kitchen, I heard a soothing, melodic voice coming from a CD player in the next room. “Who is that singing?” I asked. Looking at me as if I had been living under a rock, he replied “THAT is my Auntie Joan.” 

One week later, I was pouring out my heart to this musical heroine. I told her that I needed her help to communicate my message to American families.  

 “I want to create a children’s CD that both kids and parents will love. I want to tell about digging in the garden, harvesting the crops and eating what we plant together as a family. I want to share how to encourage children to try new foods and most importantly, how to keep family mealtimes joyful.  I want to celebrate food – all kinds of food! But, I don’t have a clue about how to go about it and I definitely can’t sing.” Joan smiled that super-hero smile…Joan to the rescue!

For a bit of family fun, be sure to listen to Joan’s original lyrics in The Operetta: I Love Peas! on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJUDLRFwaUQ

Joan dedicated 18 months of creative energy and endless hours writing and rewriting lyrics and melodies. She enlisted top musicians and vocalists to perform in order to add a dash of sophistication for the parents. Local children’s voices added just the right amount of sweetness. She threw in a pinch of silliness for the kids, folded in a heaping cup of humor for everyone and then, mixed them all together to create Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs That Celebrate the Joy of Food! She listened to what words I felt were important to supporting kids in healthy eating and incorporated those into the mix. She sang about blueberries, broccoli and asparagus, and the fun of a family picnic and spitting watermelon seeds, and about rejoicing in the very first bite of each and every new food. She literally ate up all my advice and understood that exposing kids to a variety of foods both at home and at school makes the journey to healthy eating that much easier for everyone.

Joan has seen first-hand the importance of giving children wholesome options in the school cafeteria. Years ago, as a teacher in a residential school, she told me she “watched with horror as all of the kids got fat” on heavy, processed meals served to them each afternoon. There were no salad bars and there were no healthy options. At that time, Joan was just beginning to learn about her own food sensitivities and how they impacted her mood, health and energy. How could they feed her precious students that so called “food?” 

Today, we have the capacity to provide options for all children. Helping them choose the best foods for their own health begins at home and it is our duty as a community to ensure that nourishing choices are available in all schools. As an early childhood music educator for 8 years and an acclaimed singer/songwriter with 3 children’s CDs to her credit, Joan understands the power of music in educating young and old alike. With Dancing in the Kitchen, Joan created a banquet of musical happiness that kids from 3 to 93 will find completely delicious!  Bon appétit!  

Dancing in the Kitchen can be ordered at www.mymunchbug.com.  My Munch Bug was created by Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, a national speaker and author on the topic of picky eaters.  Melanie or Joan can be contacted at Melanie@MyMunchBug.com.   

Thanks for the great story, Melanie! What a fun way to celebrate good eating! 

And remember we are always looking for school food heroes! If someone in your life is doing great work in the school food realm – be sure to tell us about them. You can email Sunny at sunny@foodfamilyfarming.org with suggestions.