I’m surprised when I meet people who ask me, “What’s the point?”
What’s the point of…contacting people who’ve been impacted by foodborne illness? Sharing those peoples’ stories with industry?
Turns out, most of these people are speaking out of inexperience. For them, foodborne illness is a day or two spent home in bed, or the bathroom. They honestly aren’t aware that every year, for the families and friends of 3000 people*, foodborne illness is a destructive force much like the recent hurricane. It forces many people out of the lives they’re living into dire, and often extreme, situations where they’re required to rely on strangers and others for help. And before they reach a “new normal”—whatever that means—they face a myriad of physical, mental, financial, and social consequences. Unlike the hurricane, however, people who are victims of foodborne illness get no advance warning and are powerless to stop its effects, or even prepare for them.
At Stop Foodborne Illness we know the transforming power of story—of being able to recount an experience so powerful that it set you on a path different from where you started. For us, sharing those stories on an industry level is empowering for everyone involved. I’m always saying that everybody knows they need to wash their hands, but when that knowledge transitions from your head to your heart, then you have habits changing and behavior being modified.
Last month, a constituent from Wisconsin had the opportunity to share her story with about 120 employees of a fruit processing plant also located in Wisconsin. The following is an email we received afterwards that so clearly explains why we do what we do at Stop:
“You did an absolutely wonderful job. The impact on the group was exactly what I had hoped. Rest assured that you are making a difference by telling your story, and I know that was emotional and hard for you. Many people came up to me and said how different it makes them think of things now, having heard someone speak so close to home that almost died.
I can’t thank you enough.”
*The CDC estimates that every year in the United States, 3000 people die from foodborne disease, and that 128,000 people are hospitalized.