no kid hungry: a q&a with michael friedberg of yellowbelly chicken
What do skiing, fried chicken, and cycling have in common? Nothing, really. However, it was through these three seemingly unrelated things that World Cup Skier Michael Friedberg got his start as an advocate for childhood hunger.
We caught up with Michael Friedberg to talk about his philosophies on food as well as his involvement with No Kid Hungry.
Tell us a little about Yellowbelly Chicken. Why fried chicken?
We think that we can do a lot more to change the way people eat by offering them a better version of familiar food that they already love. We make fried chicken because it is delicious. We use all natural, hormone free, vegetarian fed, antibiotic free, free range chicken. We bread it in a gluten-free rice flour & pressure fry it in a GMO-free rice bran oil. Our tenders have 2.5 grams of fat & 14 grams of protein per tender. We pair it with fresh, healthy sides & salads. It’s delicious & healthy. It’s a perfect balance.
How did your skiing career shape your passion for responsible, clean eating?
As an athlete, I learned to think of food as fuel. I love eating. Everyone loves delicious food, but athletes are more tuned into how food makes them feel. After I retired from World Cup I started racing bikes and I got my first professional mountain bike license in 2008. Switching from a skill based sport to an endurance sport brought the food as fuel thing into sharper focus. There are a lot of unhealthy perspectives around food in the endurance sports community. Lately, there has been a shift from processed bars & drinks to more of a real, whole food approach. I have a lot of respect for companies like Skratch that have been on the cutting edge of that. They made simple cookbooks that encouraged athletes to cook. Our concept is based on similar principals. We also believe that food is more than fuel & that it is important to eat things that make you happy as well as feel good. I’ve been eating our food every day for 6 years. I still crave it & start to think about what I want to eat for recovery about 1/2 way through a workout.
In the spirit of healthier food for all, you are involved with No Kid Hungry. How did you first become involved with them and why has it become so important to you?
I first got involved with No Kid Hungry (NKH) by riding with chef Chris Cosentino to the Food & Wine Festival in Aspen. We rode from Boulder & it took 3 days. After that, I was invited to ride the Blackberry Farm Pro-Am with a group of celebrity chefs. We ended up winning $30K for NKH. As a restauranteur, I am passionate about encouraging people to eat better. That almost always means spending more money on food. Our restaurant is more expensive than fast food because we use high-quality ingredients. Those ingredients are expensive. I also want to acknowledge that one in six kids in the US is considered food insecure. That number blows me away. It is completely unacceptable. As much as I want to encourage people to eat better it is important to realize that those choices are a luxury that not everyone has. Lots of families struggle to put food on the table & send kids to school hungry. That is where NKH comes in. Every dollar raised connects a kid to ten meals! Giving to charity is a great thing, but NKH is like instant gratification. Disease research is amazing & a great thing to support. Breakthroughs happen & maybe your $10 will be the $10 that cures cancer. NKH will turn that $10 into 100 meals for kids who need it. A lot of what we do is through school meal programs. In some cases, kids will be motivated to go to school to eat. Once they are there & have had a healthy meal they can learn. I cannot function when I’m hungry. I get hangry. It breaks my heart to think of so many kids going without food. In a lot of cases, they eat with their classmates & teachers. Food has the power to build community. The school meal programs do so much more than just feed kids. They give them a real shot at the future they deserve.
Has your involvement in No Kid Hungry shaped the way you use food/cook with food, etc?
It has changed my perspective on food from an equality perspective. I’ve long been an evangelist for healthy eating. I did not realize how many people were struggling to eat period, not just make healthy choices.
How can someone get involved with No Kid Hungry?
By donating & making people aware of the problem of childhood hunger in the U.S. Do an event in support of NKH to bring awareness to the problem & solution. Donating even small amounts of money feels great when you realize how many meals you are providing. We can absolutely end childhood hunger!
What is Chef’s Cycle?
Chef Cycle is a group of chefs & restaurant professionals that raise money for NKH though cycling. It started out as a 3-day ride, three back to back to back 100-mile rides, to raise money and awareness. There are lots of celebrity chefs that are part of it: the Voltaggio brothers, Chris Cosentino, Seamus Mullen, Duff Goldman, Ted Cizma & Jeff Mahin, just to name a few. It has become more of a brother/sisterhood over the years. In addition to raising money for NKH, it gets chefs out on bikes. Chefs are great at taking care of everyone but themselves. By getting chefs to be more active we change the way they think about food. Healthy celebrity chefs are changing the way this country thinks about food.
What’s one life lesson about food that we should all learn?
Balance. Don’t avoid certain foods if they make you happy. Exercise, eat reasonable portions & repeat. It’s crazy how much more we know now about healthy fats than we did 10 years ago. Balance and moderation combined with a healthy lifestyle will always be the way to go.