We’re excited to introduce you to our speakers for the 2016 Change Food Fest through a series of personal Q&A’s.
Dawn Moncrief is the founding director of A Well Fed World (AWFW), a hunger relief and animal protection nonprofit based in Washington, DC. AWFW’s dual mission uniquely assists both people and animals in dire need. Through their Global Grants program, AWFW distributes more than 200 grants annually in 50+ countries. Their Plants-4-Hunger campaign provides year-round opportunities to alleviate child hunger in Ethiopia, India, Guatemala, and the United States. Dawn speaks on day one in session two, “Proteins.”
Q1. What’s one thing anyone can do to help the good food movement?
Shifting toward a plant-based diet greatly benefits the good food movement on multiple levels. Notably, since animals consume much more food than they produce and are also highly resource-intensive (using large amounts of water, land, and energy), minimizing (ideally eliminating) animal-sourced foods takes pressure off the food system, thereby reducing factory farming, pollution, resource use, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Q2. Since much of your work is advocating veganism, what changes in human protein diets would you like to see that would benefit both humans and animals?
I would like to see the continuation and intensification of the trend that places greater value on the health benefits of plant-based proteins. This is for plant proteins that are consumed directly (such as legumes), as well as vegan versions of burgers, ribs, chicken, seafood, cheese, eggs, etc.
In the United States, protein deficiency is very rare, but diet-related diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and many more can be reduced by switching to (or increasing the percentage of) plant-sourced protein, which come from foods that tend to be high in fiber and antioxidants, while low in saturated fat.
Animals benefit directly because fewer are used for food. Animals can also benefit because decreasing our high levels of animal consumption reduces pressure on the food system, so that there are more possibilities (and hopefully actual changes) to reduce the severest confinements and harshest treatments. Finally, the environmental benefits of vegan diets help both humans and animals (including wild animals).
Q3. How have you seen people adapt their diets and food choices successfully that have had a material impact on how animals are treated? How can we make individual actions matter more in the lives of humans and animals?
When it comes to the impact on how animals are treated, the best thing someone can do to protect animals is to not consume them or their products. Meat consumption in the United States has been declining over the past several years, saving hundreds of thousands of animals every year. This decrease in meat consumption stems from increasing numbers of vegetarians and vegans, as well as increasing numbers of meat-reducers (intentional and unintentional reducetarians).
Going vegan is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Our individual food choices can be even more meaningful if we have a positive attitude so that people connect with us and learn more. If we are good examples and good advocates, we can also help create change in other people and the larger food system(s) that provide benefits well beyond the impact of our personal choices.
For non-vegans, there can be powerful change by reducing animal-sourced food consumption (the more, the better), and by being allies. In other words, regardless of personal diet, people can be supportive of other people’s efforts and of campaigns/policies that make plant-based food choices more accessible.
Q4. What do you think the plant and non-animal-based protein food offerings will look like in 20 years?
There are extraordinary advances in making plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs healthier and more convenient, cost-effective, and delicious. I expect this fast-growing market to continue to gain momentum among vegans and non-vegans so that animal-free proteins are commonplace in the next 20 years.
I’m particularly thrilled about the advancements in clean/cultured meats for people who remain attached to having animal-sourced foods, but with improved nutritional profiles and negligible harm to the environment and animals. I expect these options will take especially fast hold at the manufacturer level, and will also have widespread individual appeal after an initial period of cautiousness (as with many things that are new).
Q5. What can each of us do to help combat hunger in our own communities, and around the world?
We can combat hunger in our own communities by donating time and/or resources to local groups working on the issues. There’s also an online “crowd-feeding” service call Amp Your Good, which allows people to donate to food pantries through online processes.
At the global level, we can provide funding to groups making a known difference. I prefer to work with smaller organizations, where my donations have a relatively larger impact. I also give priority to vegan organizations. The Plants-4-Hunger campaign of A Well-Fed World donates 100% of donations to four vegan feeding programs nourishing children in Ethiopia, India, Guatemala, and the United States. Plus, there are matching grants that make the campaign even more powerful. It’s a great gift-donation for anyone to give or receive.
Consumers in the United States and other high-income countries with plentiful food access can also help global hunger concerns by choosing foods that are less crop-intensive and less resource-intensive. Plant-based diets won’t solve world hunger, but have tangible benefits and save massive amounts of global crops and resources. Increasing the relative crop supply globally (by not inefficiently feeding crops to livestock), decreases pressure on food prices which can increase food access to the world’s poor.
If we are concerned about the impact of food waste or biofuels, then we should also be concerned about the amount of crops diverted from the poor for livestock feed. They all pull from the global food supply. Also, climate change problems disproportionately harm those who are poor and hungry. Plant-based diets create fewer greenhouse gases and cause less deforestation than animal-inclusive diets, so choosing plant-based foods is another way U.S. consumers can help reduce global warming and increase global food security.
Q6. Where can we find more information about your work?
The majority of information about our work is on A Well-Fed World’s website at www.awfw.org. Our specialty is promoting the benefits of plant-based foods and farming from global hunger and climate perspectives. Our Plants-4-Hunger feeding campaign is at www.awfw.org/gifts.
Blog author Stephanie Miller is a food tech and digital marketing consultant who grows the market opportunity for sustainable food economy brands and products. She is a volunteer supporting the Change Food Fest.
The Change Food Fest “Growing the Good Food Movement” will take place in New York City on November 12 and 13, 2016. We will explore and celebrate change happening in the food system. Rather than simply talk about problems, we will actively look at solutions that are leading us to the sustainable food system we wish to see. Our focus will be on both real and visionary change and will include an exploration into seafood, plant based vs meat diets, possible impacts of new businesses and investment money coming into the food space – and much more. Join us – #CFFest2016! You can purchase a ticket or host a viewing party of the live webcast in your local community.