Reflections on the Food=Medicine Conference

GFMA was lucky enough to attend the the Food=Medicine Conference at Emory last month. Speakers included the president of the American College of Cardiology, clinical researchers, bestselling authors, dietitians/nutritionists, celebrity chefs with cooking demos, athletes who follow a plant-based diet, and lecturers on food choice. 

GFMA gave attendees the chance to connect what they were learning in conference sessions with the concept of local and sustainable food, emphasizing that our personal health, the health of our communities, and the health of the planet are all inescapably intertwined. We met a lot of new friends, some exciting potential community partners, and signed up a lot of new GFMA members! GFMA staff and volunteers were accompanied by grower Haylene Green the Garden Queen, who served some delicious pumpkin soup to those who stopped by our table. 

One of the benefits of joining GFMA as a member or board member is that you get the opportunity to attend events like this one as a volunteer, which also allows you to sit in on conference sessions and meet other community stakeholders. Eugene Cooke, a grower and activist who sits on our board, attended with GFMA. Read his thoughts on the conference below. (Please note that the Food=Medicine conference as well as Eugene's collective, Grow Where You Are, are both grounded in veganism, which GFMA recognizes as one of several approaches to healthy, sustainable eating and growing.)

In November 2015 Emory hosted the first Food = Medicine forum. As a board member of Georgia Farmers Market Association I was privileged to attend one day of this three day gathering.

This event was a unique learning experience where the focus was educating medical professionals on the benefits of plant based eating for themselves and their patients. This lifestyle of whole plant based nutrition is finally gaining momentum in the western society. The diverse presenters ranged from medical doctors to athletes and nutrition scientists. This colorful collection of intelligent folks highlighted the health complications that are directly linked to meat and animal product consumption.

Many of the obvious chronic diseases that kill millions of people are avoidable with plant based eating. The experts at Food=Medicine offered chilling statistics regarding the correlation of animal agriculture on the global ecology. One of the questions raised that spoke to me was this: Can we truly assume we are environmentalists and continue to breed, feed, slaughter and consume animals? It is recorded that 70 billion animals are killed as food for humans each year. These animals bred by humans produce more than 7 million pounds of waste each minute on a global scale. How does this amount of waste affect the soil, air and water supply? As we look closer at the fresh water supply that we share as living beings it is stunning to be informed that 50% of all water usage in the United states is used for livestock.

What information will move you to consider a lifestyle transformation? A common concern is this: How will you get your protein? Thankfully the experts have done the research and are sharing it with medical professionals and urban farmers alike at gatherings like this one. In this time of land grabs across Africa and urban renewal in U.S. cities, agro ecological veganic growing practices are a real solution to hunger and illness due to a toxic food supply. The research finds that 15 times more plant protein per acre can be produced than with animal agriculture. When these local food systems are designed properly their intensive diversity increases fruit production as well as deepening the nutrition of seasonal vegetables.

As we continue to support and inform each other we set the intention for change. New systems for financing veganic agriculture are developing. The abundance that will grow in our cities will birth more vibrant, balanced markets in all communities.

GeneralSarah Dasher