Most Americans are in need of a diet makeover, this is not news. Each year, we the people rely more and more on processed and fast foods, even as we’re warned over and over again of the troubling side effects. As a report summarizing a recent Harvard debate on the subject proclaims “Judged by its impact on health, the American food supply is a disaster”. Yikes! Are we trying to avoid being healthy? Or are we just too stressed and overwhelmed to think about it?
Fortunately where there’s a sustainability-related problem, there’s a Santa Cruz visionary with a solution. Starting on April 28th, the Santa Cruz based Food Revolution Summit will launch as a series of interviews with some of the most educated, inspired, and HELPFUL voices on the planet, and this cool conference is not only readily accessible to everyone, it’s free!
I personally embrace the idea that the path to sustainability starts in the kitchen. And the Food Revolution Summit reminds me of a virtual GreenFest, with a tremendous lineup of compelling speakers, but totally food –centric and you don’t have to drive to San Francisco to hear them. Needless to say I’m patiently anticipating the start of the Summit, which will be broadcast worldwide April 28-May 6th.
Equally exciting is the fact that John and Ocean Robbins will be hosting this groundbreaking event. Most of us are familiar with this enlightened father son team and their initiative promoting the relationship between food, health and the environment, who reside right here in Santa Cruz.
A: I sat down with my dad (John Robbins), whose had been a food revolutionary leader for 25 years. We made a list of leading visionaries we know are experts on this topic. It’s wonderful that we have such a wealth of wisdom to draw upon. They all contribute different pieces to the puzzle, which ultimately fit together to create an informative and empowering whole.
Q: Is there an overriding message that you hope to convey through the conference? In other words, what do you want people to walk away with?
A: We want people to know they have the power to take responsibility for their health, and to be agents of change in the world. If you want to think globally and act locally, you can’t get more local than the food on our plate.
Q: Diet is such a loaded topic, and the subject of meat eating (as in reduction) even more so. Do you think that scares some people away from the entire conversation?
A: Most people want to be healthy, and want information that will be useful to them. Of course there is so much misleading information out there coming from sources that are trying to confuse people that a lot of people are rightfully cynical of new fads or advice. Sometimes they choose the dietary devil they know over the one they don’t - why change if you don't know if it matters? Sadly, it's often only when a major health crisis strikes that a lot of people start to make changes. For some of them it can be too late. That’s why we’re bringing in real information from seasoned experts and encouraging our audience to decide for themselves what makes sense.
We’re not trying to promote a particular box we put ourselves into – I don’t care whether you call yourself vegetarian, an omnivore, or an asparagus. Everyone is unique, and we all have to find our what works for us. I want summit participants to have the information they need you can make good choices. We want them to leave informed, inspired and empowered. I personally believe that many of us can improve our health outcomes with a plant based diet.
Q: Here’s a tougher one. Campaigns like Meat Free Monday are gaining popularity and seem to be a fun and easy way touchstone for this topic. But from what I know of Drs. Campbell and Esselstyn’s work, this is like putting a bandaid on an arterial laceration (excuse the comparison). What are your thoughts on that?
A: We all have to start where we are, using what works – if you need to sign a purity pact to take a positive step, you’ll never do it. We’re not trying to promote a specific regime, we’re simply offering the tools and information pointing the way to healthier living. As author and Food Revolution Summit participant Kathy Freston reminds up, we all need to lean into what’s possible, one step at a time. We all have power to take responsibility for health and to add to the betterment of our world.
Q: In our information overloaded culture, the marketing messages backed by the most money are the ones being heard. Got Milk anyone?! It’s scary that most of us don’t realize how many of these “health messages” are really industry-backed ads pretending to be some kind of public service announcements. I get concerned that as whole, organic foods advocates, we’re not reaching the people who most need to hear it because they’re hearing those slogans, but not following up to find out who’s paying for them. Can you speak to that issue?
A: One of the goals for the Food Revolution Summit is to create messages of empowerment to help us make informed choices. It’s true, big agri-business is spending an enormous amount of money marketing food like-products, contaminated with GMOs (genetically modified organisms), hoping to get people hooked on whatever sells, which is often junk food. We are up against powerful forces, yet I believe that the thrust and passion to be healthy are more compelling than greed. As a society, we’re ready to reclaim our health and food systems.
Q: I hate to do it, but have to bring up the dreaded “P word”. The beef industry has us so convinced that meat is the only way to get it, it’s like we’ll shrivel up and die without our daily ribeye. How do you respond to that rampant worry?
A: The meat industry has actually been using animal products and protein synonymously for a long time, which has created that accompanying mind-set. But there are many sources of protein. One of our speakers, T. Colin Campbell, conducted the China Study, which is the largest, most comprehensive study of diet and disease ever conducted. His findings linked animal proteins to a whole plethora of health problems. Not all proteins are created equal, and on the whole, it seems that most of us consume far too much animal protein where plant protein is a healthier alternative for many of us. Everyone has a unique biochemical make up, and no one size fits all diet works for everyone. But there's also a lot that medical science is teaching us, and the Food Revolution Summit will share the latest breakthroughs.
Q: I love the idea that you and your dad are not simply focused on the need to make change, but that you’re also there to guide people with a menu of options and tips for healthier living in your books and your upcoming Living the Food Revolution course, which is brilliant. For those of us new to this information but pumped to get going, what are some immediate resources we can access to get start with?
A: There is lots of material available at John Robbins’ web site for starters. You can also look at the list of Summit speakers, each is associated with an organization related to this topic, and those sites offer great information . Another important step is to join the California Ballot Initiative to Label GMOs, which is a crucial campaign happening right now. And don’t forget to sign up for the Summit!
See you there!!