"Advice is cheap," he says. "Giving a one- or two-minute lecture about healthy foods is nice, but when we give ChopChop it really amplifies the message in a way that words just don't."
Nothing in Sampson's public background would suggest that she was a nut for children's health. Many of her cookbooks tackled single subjects, including party dips, ice cream, cookies and burgers. But her views had been formed while tending to her daughter, who was ill through much of childhood. (Her daughter, now 20, is fine, Sampson says.)
Her "ah-ha" moment came seven years ago, when she read a newspaper article by Harvard pediatrician and medical school professor Donald Berwick that took the nation's medical system to task.
"It was like I was reading for the first time about somebody who cared about what I cared about," Sampson said. "I wrote an email to him and said, 'If I could work for you I would never write another cookbook again.' "
Berwick wrote back. After dabbling in various health-related work, Sampson began approaching pediatricians with an idea to prescribe cooking during appointments. The enthusiasm was fierce and immediate, she says. She received more than 140 requests from pediatricians for the as-yet unborn magazine. She began raising money, collecting enough from companies such as Stonyfield Farm, Oxo and children's hospitals to print 150,000 copies of her first issue. She parked her car on the street and kept 8,000 copies in her garage.
After that first issue, Sampson says, requests poured in from afterschool programs, YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Indian reservations, food banks, neighborhood health clinics and other organizations. New Balance came on board as the main sponsor and remains the biggest donor.
"We were really excited about being part of a movement to get kids cooking again," says Molly Santry, the company's charitable programs manager. "We had funded hands-on cooking classes and the magazine was another resource for kids and families to get inspired to cook."
Sure, Sampson would like to see every family in America cooking together or to have obesity eradicated by 2020. But her immediate goals are more straightforward: she wants "to make cooking cool" and to give children the skills to stay healthy throughout their lives. With the editorial machine in motion, she says only one obstacle remains.
"Money," she says definitively. "The demand for ChopChop is huge. We are only slowed down by money. The more money we get, the more people we can reach."