Meatless Monday Attends the Food as Medicine Summit in NYC

December 11th, 2017


On Thursday, November 30, Meatless Monday participated in the Food as Medicine Summit held at the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center. The summit featured expert speakers who discussed how problematic food habits have caused the number and prevalence of chronic diseases to rise. “Therefore, food must also be the solution,” according to the summit’s mission.

Meatless Monday founder Sid Lerner (second from left) with (from left) Stephen Ritz, Dr. Robert Graham, and Michel Nischan. Photo by Charles Platkin.

The summit kicked off with a welcome from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who has been outspoken in his support for Meatless Monday and healthy eating habits in NYC schools. The former police officer was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2016 but was able to put the disease into remission by switching to a healthier lifestyle that included more plant-based foods. He has been a strong proponent of bringing Meatless Monday to several schools in Brooklyn.

The opening keynote address was delivered by Dr. Robert Graham, a co-founder of FRESH Med NYC who promotes the idea of food as medicine, saying there should not be just a “pill for every ill.” Graham discussed how the top 10 causes of death are related to food and diet. His mission stands by food as a remedy and uses dietary changes as the first approach in managing illness at FRESH Med NYC.

Other speakers included Michel Nischan, chef and CEO of Wholesome Wave, and Stephen Ritz, CEO of Green Bronx Machine. Their panel discussed the impact of healthy food on children and its availability in schools. Nischan’s son was diagnosed with diabetes at age five; Ritz pointed out the difficulty in getting good produce in his South Bronx neighborhood. An emphasis was placed on not only getting kids interested in healthy eating at a young age but also making it fun for them to learn about it.

Meatless Monday President Peggy Neu spoke to the significance of “meeting education with action” and putting good ideas into practice. The healthcare industry is the “front line” in the battle to better inform and direct people towards more healthy lifestyles and diets. Rather than using “band-aid” remedies for chronic illnesses, Neu said, these diseases can and should be prevented with better eating habits.

Neu’s takeaway on the discussion of food as medicine: we need “new heroes” and better food choices need to be made “culturally relevant.” The bottom line of the Food as Medicine Summit was keeping people interested, keeping food exciting, and – most importantly – keeping people educated.