Tips from the ‘Food, Inc.’ activist

The food safety bill being debated in Congress has ignited passions on both sides, but for Barbara Kowalcyk, it’s personal.

You may remember Kowalcyk as the mom-turn-activist in “Food, Inc.,” a documentary on the food industry. Shortly after her son Kevin died of a food-borne illness, the Midwesterner flew to D.C. to lobby for stronger food safety laws.

Kowalcyk’s years-long quest to access government data and find out why her son got sick tranformed her career. She has since co-founded an advocacy group, advised federal regulators, contributed to scientific reports, and traveled the world to study food safety models.

“I never went up to the Hill or did any of these things before my son got sick,” she told “Certainly his illness opened my eyes.”

In less than a decade, Kowalcyk has seen food safety transform from a fringe concern to the topic of key legislation (S. 510) near passage.

The activist shares five lessons she learned along the way.

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