A Conversation With Maggie Baird, Billie Eilish’s Mom

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Bluedot Living founder Victoria Riskin talks with Baird about getting plant-based food to underserved communities.

I am probably the only person in the known world who was unfamiliar with Billie Eilish’s music before I met her mother, actress Maggie Baird, to learn about Support + Feed, Maggie’s passion project to address the climate crisis and make plant-based food accessible to underserved communities. Before meeting Maggie, I watched the documentary Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry (Apple TV) and was awed by Billie’s innocent, sultry, poetic style, her brother-partner Finneas’ musical talent, but also the way Maggie and her actor husband, Patrick O’Connell, support their children. Music, singing, sustainability, healthy food, and freedom of spirit seemed baked into their lives from the beginning.

Maggie suggested we meet in the lobby of the famous Century Plaza Hotel in Beverly Hills after her panel on sustainability at the Pollstar Live! Conference, the largest annual gathering of live entertainment professionals. (She is often called upon to be an expert on sustainability in the music industry.) The swarm of hip millennials at the conference venue made finding each other almost impossible. We texted. 

     “In the lounge.”  

     “Looked there. Didn’t see you! Can we meet in front?”

Maggie has a welcoming spirit, free-flowing white hair, and soft blue eyes. Because of her packed schedule, she gives the impression of a person living life on roller skates. It wasn’t roller skates she was wearing though, but the Nike plant-based sneakers designed by Billie

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We found a quiet corner, and I asked her what first led to her concerns about food and the decision to go vegan. 

“I became a vegetarian when I was 17 because I loved animals,” she tells me. “After reading Diet for a Small Planet I realized that hunger isn’t always because we don’t have enough food, but due to ineffective food policy.” Francis Moore Lappe’s 1971 bestseller sold three million copies and was head-spinning for anyone willing to learn about the environmental impact of meat production. Maggie became a vegan later when she made the connection between dairy products and eggs, and the cruel practices of the farming industry, and tragically after the loss of her mother at age 57 from a heart attack. “I was quiet at first about being a vegan to be polite and finally open about what I believed.” 

Maggie was ahead of her time, too, in understanding how wasteful we are as a society. “Many families share gifts at Christmas wrapped in giant layers of paper and ribbons that are thrown away.” she says. Maggie made her own bags at home for family and friends. “It became a family ritual, and now there are lots of memories with those bags. We look forward to seeing them each year with the beautiful fabric.”  

Maggie and Patrick homeschooled their kids to allow plenty of time to support their creativity. Music was a constant. Billie and her brother Finneas (as an artist he goes by FINNEAS) wrote songs together, and their careers took off when Ocean Eyes played on famed NPR station KCRW and went viral. Billie was just 13, and by age 15, she and Finneas were on tour, Maggie helping every step of the way, first small venues with a hundred people, then on to big arenas. “We started the old fashioned way in a van or a bus,” she says.

Billie and FINNEAS have won every top award the music industry gives. In 2020, at age 18, Billie swept all four of the Grammy’s top categories — Best Vocal Pop Album, Best Album of the Year, Best Song of the Year, and Best New Artist, all for work from her major-label debut album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” Flash forward to 2024 at the Oscars, where she (now 22) and FINNEAS won best song for “What Was I Made For?” from Barbie. Who didn’t love Billie’s Mary Jane’s with white socks?!

A Support + Feed staff member giving out a bag of food.
The staff and volunteers at Support + Feed work with more than 80 community organizations and have supported more than 60 local restaurants that have donated and delivered nearly 600,000 healthy, plant-based meals. – Photo courtesy of Support + Feed

Meanwhile, Covid motivated Maggie to start her own project, Support + Feed. “Our favorite planted-based restaurants were struggling and needed business, and the first night we delivered food to the homeless at the Midnight Mission in Los Angeles,” she says, “then expanded to first responders — lots of people. Then we realized we could really have an impact working with community organizations in food deserts where people have no access to nourishing food. Lots of people are lactose intolerant, for example, but they’re given whatever is doled out.” She calls this kind of disregard for the health of the poor or homeless food apartheid, a phrase activists use to highlight the inequity. 

Support + Feed gave cooking lessons and went to the 99 Cents Only stores to navigate the shelves for healthy choices they could recommend. Over time, they found partner organizations beyond Los Angeles and collaborated with them. From its single location during Covid to today, Support + Feed has expanded to 11 cities in the United States with partners overseas. The staff and volunteers work with more than 80 community organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs and have supported more than 60 local restaurants that have donated and delivered nearly 600,000 healthy, plant-based meals.

Maggie was also ahead of her time in understanding the link between food, deforestation, and climate change. On her website, she writes that more than 40 years ago, she saw an infographic linking the destruction of the Amazon rainforest to cattle. “My brain made the connection between diet and the environment,” she tells me. “Scientists and experts were predicting future dangers from climate change, in part due to animal agriculture, yet the media and governments were not seriously addressing the danger. Climate anxiety, environmental concerns, and veganism became part of my DNA.”

“Today, food insecurity has reached staggering proportions,” she says, “and the inequities in our food system contribute to disease and early death for millions.”

Support + Feed has grown from its single location during Covid to 11 American cities. The staff and volunteers work with more than 80 community organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs and have supported more than 60 local restaurants to deliver nearly 600,000 healthy plant-based meals.

The family, including Billie and Finneas, use their voices to influence others. When Billie’s on tour she suggests the Support + Feed pledge, “Try just one vegan meal a day for 30 days,” and other music groups now are following their lead. Billie sets the terms of her tour contracts to call for no plastic in the arena. When Oscar de la Renta’s team wanted to make clothing for her, she agreed, but only if he would stop using fur permanently. They did. When it comes to travel, Billie tours in a bus and has been known to fly economy rather than first class or on private jets.  

Now that we’re all beginning to realize the importance of how we care for the planet, this family is well-prepared to inspire us on our journey. I asked Maggie for one of her vegan recipes to share with our readers. A favorite is Jackfruit Tacos.

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two Jackfruit tacos on plate

RECIPE: Maggie’s Roasted Jackfruit Tacos with Chipotle Slaw


  • Author: Maggie Baird
  • Yield: 34 servings of two tacos 1x

Description

I first tried jackfruit tacos at a pop-up food stand in our neighborhood of Highland Park, California. They were shockingly delicious, and I immediately set about learning how to make them, perfecting them for our family preferences. With the tips I received from Plant Food For People, who made the originals, I added the roasting step to the process, which I think makes all the difference. I also add vegetarian refried beans as the first layer on the corn tortilla, which brings in some great protein as well as an amazing texture. I served these to non-plant-based teenagers who devoured them and didn’t even realize they were plant based.


Ingredients

Scale

Chipotle Coleslaw:

  • 2 cups shredded cabbage (purple or green)
  • ½ cup vegan mayonnaise (vegenaise)
  • Juice from one lime
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • ½ cup pre-made salsa (any jarred or fresh tomato salsa of your choice that you need to use up or are also serving with the tacos. If using chipotle salsa, skip adding the spice powder.)

Taco Filling:

  • 2 14-ounce cans of jackfruit
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
  • ¾ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon veggie bouillon concentrate, or ½ veggie bouillon cube, finely crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped or sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 jar (about 1 cup) of salsa verde (or traditional red salsa — or some of each!)

Toppings:

  • 6 to 8 tablespoons refried beans (warmed)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 cup chick peas (optional) 
  • Vegan cheese (optional)
  • Pico de gallo (optional)
  • Chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 6 to 8 soft corn tortillas

Instructions

For the coleslaw:

  1. Combine all ingredients except the cabbage. Mix well. The mixture will have more liquid than typical coleslaw.
  2. Stir in cabbage and chill while preparing the filling.

For the filling:

  1. Open, drain, and rinse jackfruit. Place in a bowl and pat dry with a dish towel.
  2. Break up softer jackfruit pieces with your hands and cut up harder pieces with a knife until the jackfruit is “shredded.”
  3. Sprinkle on thyme, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, and garlic powder. Massage in until the jackfruit is evenly coated. Stir in veggie bouillon and tamari.
  4. Coat the bottom of a pot (stove top, crock pot, or instant pot) with a thin layer of olive oil. Add onions, garlic, and salt, and cook on low until onions are starting to soften, but not browned.
  5. Add the jackfruit mixture and salsa to the onions and garlic. Allow mixture to simmer on low heat for 1 ½ hours (or, if you are using a crock pot, 3‒4 hours on low). You can speed this up in a pressure cooker or, with constant attention, you can cook at a slightly higher temperature for a shorter time.
  6. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Add a thin layer of olive oil to an unlined cookie sheet. Once jackfruit is done simmering, and the salsa has been thoroughly absorbed, spread the mixture on the prepared cookie sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, or until crispy. Stir and turn mixture every 5 minutes. As the jackfruit roasts, some of the moisture will be reduced, and bits of jackfruit will start to caramelize on the cookie sheet.

To assemble tacos:

  1. Heat corn tortillas one at a time in a lightly oiled skillet. Fill each tortilla with a tablespoon of refried beans and top with jackfruit. Top with a slice of avocado, about ⅓ cup chipotle coleslaw, and any other taco toppings of your choice (like pico de gallo, shredded vegan cheese, or chopped cilantro).

Notes

Jackfruit is a great plant-based option for replicating the texture and flavor of meat, especially pulled pork. It is a great source of fiber, potassium, and other micronutrients. If you have an allergy to latex or birch pollen, be aware that these allergies sometimes see a cross-reaction with jackfruit. You can find canned jackfruit at most major grocery stores including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Walmart.

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Victoria Riskin
Victoria Riskin
Victoria is the President and Founder of Bluedot Living. She had a long career as a writer-producer in television and is a past President of the Writers Guild of America West. She’s served on numerous nonprofit boards and won numerous awards for her writing and for her human rights activism.
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