Food Activism: How a Plant-Based Diet Is a Catalyst for Change

Food Activism: How a Plant-Based Diet Is a Catalyst for Change

In an era that feels difficult to enact change with limited control over our own livelihoods, we can at least create change within our circle of control. By consuming with consciousness, we can advance the movement for social, racial, and environmental justice, to create the necessary change for the future of our planet. One of the most impactful ways to create lasting change is by practicing food activism.

How a plant-based diet is a form of food activism

Food activism takes into account not just what we eat, but where it comes from, how it’s sourced or produced, which communities it affects, and its overall economic, environmental, and social impact. With these attainable initiatives in mind, here are four reasons how following a plant-based diet is a form of food activism.

Food Activism: How a Plant-Based Diet Is a Catalyst for Change
You can help combat climate change with food activism. | iStock

Eliminating meat consumption combats the climate crisis 

Climate change is not going away, whether we like it or not. If we choose to combat the climate crisis or remain complicit to it, our fate is in our own hands. We can each take action to mitigate the effects of global warming, beginning with shifting our diets to become more sustainable, equitable, and conscious of the impact it has on our communities and the environment.

Our global food system is responsible for over 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions with it expected to increase if people consume more and more meat and dairy products, a strong proponent of global warming. About 60 percent of these food emissions come from animal products, with half of all farmed animal emissions deriving from beef and lamb production. Above all else, animal products, both meat and dairy, require more natural resources and cause higher emissions than fruit and vegetable farming, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. 

As a result, the most effective strategy to reduce emissions is for people to follow a plant-rich diet by eating mostly “vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and begin by limiting red meat consumption to just one serving per week”, the EAT-Lancet recommends. Climate change is an existential threat to our humanity and this planet so we must be willing to shift our eating habits by straying away from investing in the mass production of meat and dairy products that greatly contribute to this crisis. 

Food Activism: How a Plant-Based Diet Is a Catalyst for Change
Eating plant-based is a form of environmental justice. | Pacific Press / Getty

Advocate for racial, social and environmental justice

Eating plant-based is a form of environmental justice. Based on the clear intersection of injustices present in American society, we can conclude that there is no environmental justice without racial justice. With limited access to certain foods due to residential segregation or the negative health effects BIPOC communities are forced to endure as a result of it, we cannot attain environmental justice without first addressing the barriers communities of color face.

By shifting from participating in industrialized American food systems that prioritize profits and corporations over people, plant-based eating gives BIPOC populations the opportunity to thrive in an American society that imposes the negative effects of animal agriculture our communities are disproportionately impacted by.

The roots of plant-based eating derive from African, Indigenous, Asian, and Caribbean, cultures, though mainstream media often portrays it as a white millennial trend. In many ways, the plant-based eating movement for our communities of color is an opportunity to stand against colonial and industrial systems, a form of activism intended to decolonize and stand in solidarity with those directly impacted.

For Black and Latinx populations, these colonial food systems have catastrophic health effects BIPOC individuals acquire, from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity, to name a few. These negative health outcomes are a direct result of industrial food systems saturated in animal-based products.

A tool of resistance, standing against colonialism and preserving the future of the planet is an act of solidarity and effort to protect our communities. The power of our food choices have the ability to dismantle systemic racism and the various corporations that practice it. Above all else, plant-based eating is an attainable solution that combats the climate crisis and inevitably helps everyone on the planet, not just a select few.

Support small, local, BIPOC-owned plant-based businesses

From vegan food trucks in Oregon to restaurants in Philly, there’s a wave of game-changing BIPOC-owned plant-based businesses in nearly every state. With many Black-owned, communities of color have taken matters into their own hands to combat the crisis and advance the movement for change, preparing notoriously traditional cultural dishes, even on a budget.

For decades, BIPOC communities have been practicing plant-based eating not as a result of a trend, but rather as a form of survival and advancement for the future of BIPOC populations due to the negative health effects caused by colonial food systems and lack of access to healthcare.

Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the standard American diet because we reside in neighborhoods with limited access to grocery stores with fresh fruits or vegetables, if any at all, in large part due to residential segregation and redlining.

Since there are many health benefits to eating plant-based, from protecting the brain to preventing disease, historically oppressed communities have found solutions to preserve the health and futures of its own ethnic community.

In Phoenix, Arizona, young Latinx consumers are embracing plant-based foods and businesses, particularly those tied to their culture. Latinx-owned businesses Earth Plant-Based Cuisine & Tacos Veganos, two major game-changers cultivating traditional Mexican-style cuisines, Latinx youth are breaking generational food norms and investing in vegan lifestyles that preserve their community.

Not too far away in Oakland, California, Black-owned Souley Vegan serves Louisiana Creole inspired dishes as one of the Bay Area’s first vegan soul food restaurants. Black consumers are elevating the plant-based game to new heights as the demand continues to increase.  

As a result, the next generation is beginning to acquire these cultural traditions, allowing us to invest in the future of our BIPOC populations and the communities we currently inhabit.

Food Activism: How a Plant-Based Diet Is a Catalyst for Change
Be a conscious consumer by voting with your dollar. | Thomas Warwick / Getty

Consume with community consciousness

In 2020, we all recognized the individual power our vote holds. When we each make our voices heard and stand up for what we believe in at the ballot box, we have the power to change our lives, our community, and the world. The power of one single vote has just as much of an impact on the environment we inhabit by combating the climate crisis, as do the meals we choose to consume.

The power of our activism, from the food we eat to the civic engagement choices we make, contributes to the advancement of our humanity. It’s an act of solidarity and opportunity for our diverse communities to thrive.

But to simply eat plant-based and not couple it with other forms of activism is not enough. Support local BIPOC-led organizations committed to justice, advocate for progressive climate policy, and hold elected officials accountable.

Eating plant-based has just as much of an impact on the society we live in as our ability to be considerate of the various issues, initiatives, and individuals that inhabit this planet with us. “Eating kindly” is not simply a matter of considering how one’s food choices impact one’s own health and the environment, but also the society we’re all a part of. 

Through conscious consumption, uplifting local BIPOC plant-based businesses, taking action to mitigate our impact on the climate crisis, and advocating for justice are just a few ways to participate in saving the planet and the future of humanity as a collective society and together we can take actionable steps to get there.