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Eric Adams is now New York City’s first vegan mayor-elect, easily defeating his Republican opponent, Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, an organization focused on unarmed crime prevention.  Those who have followed this race know that great attention has been paid to issues such as crime, education, and the homelessness crisis in New York City.  What hasn’t been reported as much is Adams’ commitment to revolutionizing health policy in New York City and beyond.

Adams has been vocal that his commitment to health policy stems from his own personal journey with chronic illness and his experience overcoming it by transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based diet about five years ago. Through diet and exercise alone, he was able to reverse his Type 2 diabetes, and it’s clear that he wants to provide the same Support for all New Yorkers suffering from chronic illnesses.

Here are 7 actions he’s taken to effect positive change in health policy in New York City and beyond:

1. Plant-Based Diet for Hospital Patients

In 2018, Adams, together with NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, established a $400,000 pilot program to help patients transition to a healthy lifestyle that includes whole foods, plant-based diet to improve, and in some cases reverse, chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.  “This clinic will champion a new paradigm for health care in New York and beyond, one in which patients gain freedom not only from debilitating, life-threatening chronic diseases but also from the harsh side effects and reduced quality of life associated with traditional, less effective treatments,” said Adams.  Over three years after its establishment, the program is still going strong today.

2. Plant-Based Nutrition Education for Medical Students

Earlier this year, Adams announced that he would be awarding a $10,000 grant from his Brooklyn Borough office to the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate College of Medicine that will help fund a new Food as Medicine Initiative, which will supplement the pre-existing nutrition curriculum at the school.

“My own personal health journey of overcoming Type 2 diabetes taught me the importance of a healthy diet,” he said in a press release.  “During that time, I also learned how few practicing doctors are aware that food can be medicine, and students training for the medical profession often receive little to no nutrition education,” he shared.

“We believe the Food as Medicine Initiative will change the paradigm, ensuring that future doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals are armed with the knowledge about the benefits of plant-based eating, so they can more effectively treat patients suffering from certain chronic diseases and encourage them to lead a healthier lifestyle,” he said.

3. Meatless Mondays

Adams was the primary advocate behind implementing Meatless Mondays in all New York City public schools, hospitals, and jails.  “We must stop poisoning our people,” he shares on his mayoral campaign website.  “Twice as many Black and Brown New Yorkers have diabetes than white New Yorkers,” he pointed out.

“Shockingly, a large number of diabetics are also children who are poorly served by City agencies with conflicting policies: While our Department of Health fights childhood obesity, the Department of Education feeds our children the food that causes it,” he said.

4. Non-Dairy Milk at Schools

In 2020, Adams wrote a letter to then-NYC schools Chancellor, Richard Carranza, pushing for the introduction of a pilot program that would provide non-dairy alternatives to public school students.  “Approximately 70% of the global population is lactose intolerant, disproportionately affecting people of color,” he said.  “That can lead to health issues like cholesterol and saturated fat buildups.”

He went on to point out that “the health benefits from milk, including calcium, are now available in non-dairy options like fortified soy milk.”  Current NYC Department of Education guidelines require that a student can only request non-dairy milk with a doctor’s note showing diagnosed lactose intolerance.

5. A Ban on Processed Meat at Schools

The World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015 classified processed meat such as bacon, hot dogs, ham, and sausages as “carcinogenic to humans”, causing colorectal cancer.  This places processed meat in the same category as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic, and tobacco, which are all Group 1 carcinogens.

Adams, along with Council Member Fernando Cabrera, introduced in a groundbreaking New York City Council resolution to ban processed meats from being served within the city’s public schools.  “Hot dogs and ham sandwiches are in the same class of substances as cigarettes,” Adams stated in a press release. “We know that we would never give our children cigarettes to smoke, so there’s absolutely no reason why we should continue poisoning our children’s health with processed meats,” he said.

6. Website Devoted to Plant-Based Nutrition

Adams is the only NYC politician with a website page devoted to resources for plant-based nutrition.  Resources on his site include an African American Vegan Starter Guide and a link to prominent organizations that promote a whole-food, plant-based diet, such as the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Nutrition Facts.

7. His book, Healthy At Last

Healthy At Last is a plant-based nutrition book Adams co-wrote with Gene Stone in 2020.  In a podcast interview with Ezra Klein this year, Adams discusses his book and urges people to reconsider what soul food really is.

“The food we call soul food is slave food. We were forced to eat it. We were forced to put sugar, oil, fatbacks, pig knuckles, pig ears [in it],” he says.  “Our ancestors were extremely creative. They should be commended because working the fields and getting the scraps from the slave owners’ table and then finding a way to make it palatable, it just shows the creativity of the human spirit,” he continues.  “But we’re no longer on the plantation physically, but we’re still there mentally, because each time that recipe is handed down, we are handed down the tradition of slavery.”

Adams’ book highlights how soul food can be made healthy.  “I wanted to show people the connectivity between slavery and what we eat, and in the back of the book, I wanted them to see how good, healthy food actually is through my recipes,” he says.

Through the lens of his health policy actions, Eric Adams’ unwavering commitment to the well-being of New Yorkers is evident.  We are looking forward to seeing more partnerships and activism from him that continue to put the health of people, animals, and the planet first.

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For those interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend purchasing one of our plant-based cookbooks or downloading the Food Monster App which has thousands of delicious recipes making it the largest vegan recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.

Here are some resources to get you started:

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