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Can Plant-Based Meals Go Mainstream?

Entrepreneurs Todd and Jody Boyman believe they can change people’s minds on plant-based diets through their tastebuds.

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Entrepreneurs Todd and Jody Boyman believe they can change people’s minds on plant-based diets through their tastebuds. 

(Photo: © GKRPHOTO – STOCK.ADOBE.COM)

Jody and Todd have been following a plant-based diet for nearly half a century—before the term was anywhere close to becoming a buzzword or trend. 

Jody started as a Times and Newsweek wildlife photographer.

Her love of animals made her want to provide a healthier and cleaner future for the generations to come. 

She eventually convinced her brother Todd on the science behind eating plant based: “Even 35 years ago, the data was really compelling as to why one would choose to eat this way. And today, the data is really just absolutely overwhelming. The food now is so delicious, that you can eat this way without feeling as if you need to make any compromise whatsoever.”

In the early 2000s Jody and Todd embarked on a mission to create Hungry Planet to help families eat healthy and delicious meals in ways that don’t harm the environment. 

Their angle was to create foods that taste like meat and fish, but are all sourced from plants and packaged in sustainable ways. 

“The mission,” as Todd describes it, “was to bend the curve on a personal and planetary health.” 

Weighing on Jody and Todd are projections that the human population will grow from 7.8 billion to 10-12 billion by mid-century. Questions regarding how everyone would be fed in this scenario led them to study food supply chains and industrial animal agriculture. 

Although driven by a desire to find environmentally-friendly solutions, their approach at Hungry Planet is pragmatic. They seek to create a product that appeals to peoples’ taste buds rather than just their conscience.

After many recipe trials and tastings, their meals and products became a success amongst their families, friends and peers.

Hungry Planet then made its way onto shelves at the supermarket Sprouts, and into celebrity-favorite restaurants like Craigs LA.

Hungry Planet even made its appearance on the White House menu!

For Jody and Todd it’s a one-to-one swap in terms of taste—they claim no one call tell that these are plant-based meals. 

So will people warm to the idea of switching from animal protein to plant protein?

Jody says: “Any dish that you love, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You don’t have to indoctrinate people. You don’t have to do anything. You just have to swap every product in any recipe and serve it, and voilà, you’ve already made a change.”

Buying plant-based products, however, is a luxury. It is easier to go to a fast-food joint or buy a pop-in-the-oven and microwave type meal.  

CREDIT: VAASEENAA/GETTY

So how can poorer individuals and communities follow a plant-based diet?

While Jody believes that entrepreneurs can improve accessibility, she also pointed to policy solutions. She lamented that tax money is used to subsidize low-quality meat and dairy products that end up in under-served communities. 

Noting the high levels of obesity and heart failure amongst children as young as ten these days, Jody says:

“We’re setting kids up for failure by feeding them and getting them addicted to animal-based foods.” 

Hungry Planet is trying to provide children with nutritionally-rich foods at schools. Not long ago, they distributed 1 million Hungry Planet meals to children at Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Most children seemed to like the food and did not realize they were eating vegetables. 

Plant-based products, however, do have critics. Some ingredients in plant-based products, they note, such as soy and canola oil, are frowned upon by true health-kickers. 

Soy is known to need a lot of water. A liter of soy milk, for example, needs 300 liters of water.

Although researchers are concerned that too much soy consumption can disrupt hormones and harm overall health outcomes, can ingredients like soy be completely avoided? 

Todd explains that while scaling up a business is a challenge they are focused on making a difference to human, animal, and planetary health with the “best products we can possibly produce.”

He concedes that they couldn’t go organic without hitting a price point that most people cannot afford. 

Their goal is to have enough people eating plant-based to make a difference environmentally-speaking.  

Hungry Planet’s overall mission is to “bend the curve” on human and planetary health through sustainably packaged and created foods with a low carbon emission footprint. 

As Jody put it: “I have skin in the game and so does Todd. We both have two children each. And we’re handing off this planet…The degradation of the environment that’s happening, so much of it is due to animal agriculture.”  

Todd believes that in the future people will be eating lower on the food supply chain. This will involve plant-based meats and other foods that are healthier than conventional meats.

He predicts it’ll be a long-term trend, not a short-term fad.

Hungry Planet seems fairly accessible and widespread and is certainly a healthier alternative to most processed foods. 

I still can’t help but wonder, though, if there is an even better alternative to packaged plant-based foods. If we all took a moment to take a trip to the farmer’s market and grow our own herbs or vegetables, we could live in a very simple, healthy and environmentally-friendly way. 

Well we shall have to watch this plant-based space weaving its way through the food chain! 

YASMINE TANRES is an award-winning television host and multi-media journalist based in Los Angeles. Originally from London, Yasmine is British with Spanish, Indonesian and Chinese heritage, has worked across Asia and Europe, and is proficient in Spanish, French and German. Her broad cultural perspective provides unique relatability to her reporting on social issues, climate change, lifestyle trends and pop culture. Buoyed by confidence and radiating sincerity, Yasmine elicits unexpected candor from her interviewees. Yasmine has worked across various digital platforms, including as an Entertainment Reporter on Fab TV and PopFuzion TV, interviewing an array of notable celebrities including Clive Owen, Seth Rogen, Emeli Sandé, Jason Mraz among others. Yasmine is the Lead News Anchor and Producer at Long Beach Local News. She started her career as a multimedia journalist at London360, the U.K.’s first youth-led news show partnered with the BBC, where she produced, self-shot, and edited content presenting compelling events of London’s diverse communities. Yasmine co-created, produced and hosted Talking TED Talks, a live video streaming podcast on Afterbuzz TV where she interviewed the speakers and affiliated experts on the myriad of topics explored in popular TED Talks. In recognition of her work, Yasmine has been prominently featured as an influential emerging journalist by Vents Magazine, Model Citizen and The Asian Today. When Yasmine isn’t out in the field, you can find her teaching or practicing yoga, engaging with her College Alumni group through charitable causes, or simply frolicking on sun-filled adventures with friends and family.

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Delta 8 THC- What’s Behind the Suddenly Very Available but Questionable Products?

“It is a significant, real world public health risk for patients who think these products are as safe and effective as natural cannabis”

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AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File

The hemp boom is over, and now we’re seeing the results of an industry chasing profit margins.

“The industry is rolling into a green rush derivative,” explains pharmacologist and neuroscientist, Dr. Greg Gerdeman. He wants to educate the public on cannabis, especially when it comes to the latest fads. For instance, products containing Delta-8 THC have become popular, especially in states where cannabis is still prohibited. Delta-8′ s legality is a bit murky because its a synthetic compound, something Dr. Gerdeman says is a misdirection from the promises of both cannabis flower and industrial hemp.

In our recent conversation on the Erupt app, Gerdeman talked about Delta-8, reminding us that “D-8” is not a specific strain.

“Delta-8 flower is hemp flower that’s been sprayed with synthetic D-8, that’s what D-8 flower is.”

“D-8 occurs in very low concentrations in cannabis plants, as far as has been discovered to date,” says Gerdeman. None of it is being extracted directly, it’s being converted from something else in a synthetic process, and there’s no D-8 producing strains. Any flower you get that’s sold as D-8 flower is hemp that was sprayed with D-8 that was made in somebody’s lab.”

Gerdeman compared the current D-8 craze to the CBD boom of the past few years. There was a massive amount of CBD produced in 2019 after the farming of hemp became legal.

A farm field near Sisters, Oregon is readied for another hemp crop (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

“Farmers were promised the moon as though they were gonna make tens of thousands of dollars per acre growing CBD, and it was a false premise,” Gerdeman says.

Due to a skyrocketing hemp supply, with little infrastructure to turn the newly-legal crop around, the industry took a nose-dive, and experts say it could take years for the hemp market to mature.

In the meantime, all the extra hemp that was produced without a market to buy it, is being cooked and boiled into CBD products.

“It is a significant, real world public health risk for patients who think these products are as safe and effective as natural cannabis,” said Dr. Gerdeman.

You can watch our full conversation below and on the Erupt app.

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Alphabet Mafia: The Necessary Difficulty of Building Queer Spaces

With the launch of Serif, a new type of queer space is beginning to take shape, but it is harder than ever.

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Growing up, Serif CEO Brian Tran never found himself at home inside of gay bars. He found it alienating that bars are the central hub of queerness.

“It really starts with what I first experienced when I first came out… I was constantly looking at what was around me… I do remember the first feeling was like, ‘I know I am gay but I just can’t identify with what I am seeing.’”

Continuing, he beckons the question that is echoed by Serif’s executive producer, Kristen Laffey, around how to build alternative queer spaces. Within our conversation, Laffey consistently reminds us about the necessity of furthering the scope of focus for queer spaces.

The undeniable truth, which both Laffey and Tran mention, is that gay bars have historically been the center of orbit of queer life. The three of us also agree that this reality has bred toxicity in the community.

Serif exists to rid of this toxicity and to replace it with a new way of community building.

“Serif is designed to be a space where LGBTQIA+ people can have meaningful connections through experiences that we produce. Through these experiences we can form connections through conversations that happen right in front of you and then you get to connect afterwards.”

Serif members are encouraged to take part in a spectrum of both virtual and in-person events. Each experience is catered to unique subsets of the community and attempts to shine a light on specific areas that are often underrepresented.

This attempt to truly create safety and equity for the entire community, as Tran points out, is at the core of the brand’s mission. We all agree that a majority of queer spaces give centralized importance to cis-gendered, gay men. Serif wants to change that.

Tran and Laffey each vocalize how exciting it is to be able to build something unique in its focus, particularly when more and more of the community becomes disenchanted with the idea of queer spaces.

But how does one manage that while attempting to launch a business? I bring up The Wing, an organization creating safe spaces for women in business, as a potential harbinger for how these spaces may collapse in on themselves. Over time, The Wing began to face endless challenges with sustainable equity, particularly for trans women. As I bring this up, the Serif leaders admit these challenges are inevitable for them as well. Tran knows Serif’s every move is being watched and dissected by the community. But this does not scare him. In fact, Serif encourages this feedback and a sense of community led evolution.

Find out more about how Serif plans to tackle this issue and more on our latest episode of Alphabet Mafia. You can watch this episode of Alphabet Mafia below as well as many others on the Erupt app.

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Striketober May Be Step One in the Employee Revolution

October is seeing more strikes than any month in recent memory, prompting many to consider the power of the employee and the future of corporate business.

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Talk to anyone about the labor market and two words will immediately enter the conversation: shortages and strikes.

Although the Hollywood IATSE strike was averted over the weekend, the United States is currently seeing an uptick in strikes in almost every field. As the BBC reported last week, more than 100,000 U.S. employees are currently striking. From John Deere workers to school bus drivers to symphony musicians to Kaiser employees, strikes are taking place all over the country.

While strikes are not uncommon, this month’s strikes are notable for their labor power. The strike by John Deere employees in multiple states encompasses more on 10,000 workers who are dissatisfied with their current pay and the pay raises handed to executives.

More than 28,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente in California and Oregon are also striking in hopes of having their new contract demands approved.

The Kaiser workers are only the latest in the health care sector to strike. More than 2,000 healthcare employees in Buffalo conducted a walkout at the beginning of the month. Those workers also cited better pay and conditions as rationales for their strike.

The strikes are arriving as the entire U.S. economy is struggling to return to pre-pandemic employment levels.

Are these strikes the beginning of an employment revolution?

Throughout the pandemic, the American zeitgeist around work and employees seems to have shifted. For most of the summer, labor shortages were the highlight of economic conversation, even as more businesses began to return to work. After a sequence of government stimulus packages and expanded unemployment benefits, finding employees willing to return to pre-pandemic wages was nearly impossible in a wide range of sectors.

There appears to be a new status quo for the everyday American worker and that may prove to be a reckoning for corporate business.

On top of that, according to a Gallup poll conducted in September, opinions of unions also seem to be shifting. Union support is now officially at its highest point since 1965.

Another key element in the labor shortage and resulting strikes is the complexity of immigration. Currently, more than nine million qualified immigrants are awaiting to permanent residence in the U.S. With the U.S. Labor Department’s most recent jobs report showing nearly 10.5 million job openings, immigrants could play a key role in solving the current crises.

But solving the labor shortage issue will not alleviate the pressure placed on large businesses. As strikes continue and more voices come together to demand change for employees, the corporate world will have to respond. Its response may trigger further strikes or may bring forth a new wave of employee rights.

For now, what direction this situation heads next is to be determined.

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