Asheville may be way ahead of the curve when it comes to plant-based living, but with fast-food restaurants on every other corner, there is still plenty of room for growth in that area in Western North Carolina.
That’s where Plant Based WNC comes into play. The new group (or “pod”) is part of a larger effort to promote plant-based living, all inspired by the PlantPure Nation documentary.
The film, released last year, was spearheaded by Nelson Campbell, son of Dr. T. Colin Campbell. T. Colin Campbell is the author of The China Study, a groundbreaking book that helped launch the modern plant-based movement. He also played a starring role in the documentary Forks Over Knives, and, thanks in large part to his work over the past several decades, organizations from the American Cancer Society to the the United Nations have started recognizing the importance of plant foods.
Fast forward to now, and PlantPure Nation’s focus on the transformative power of plants has inspired a grassroots effort dedicated to promoting a vegan lifestyle. WNC’s arm is led by community organizer Jane Champion and blogger and cooking instructor Lauren Vaught, and it’s one of several hundred such pods nationwide.
“We are currently launching over 200 pods, and I am nowhere more excited about this effort than in Asheville,” says Nelson Campbell. “Several years ago we screened Forks Over Knives in Asheville, and recently did the same for PlantPure Nation, and had great turnouts. Because Asheville has such a strong community of people interested in plant-based nutrition and related issues such as the environment, local food production and animal welfare, I think that the Asheville pod could become a model for other pods to follow.”
Rather than serve as another vegan social group, Plant Based WNC is setting itself up as a larger network that encourages collaboration and community. “We see ourselves as the hub for a network of other organizations who are on the same path,” says Vaught. Whether a group has chosen plant-based eating for animals, the environment or health benefits, PBWNC will embrace them all.
The group will host events, educational programming, screenings, tastings, cooking demonstrations and other efforts promoting a veg-forward lifestyle. Participation is open to anyone and everyone, whether they’re already on the path or just looking to learn more about an herbivorous diet.
As part of its umbrella of offerings, the group also plans to facilitate participation in the 14-Day Health Challenge, a two-week boot camp-style nutrition program designed by Ashevilleans John Sinnott and Dr. Amy Lanou of UNC Asheville.
PBWNC recently hosted a community Q&A at THE BLOCK off biltmore. Several local residents offered testimonials as to the benefits they’ve experienced from a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle, all in keeping with a mission of demonstrating the ease of adopting this kind of diet. “We don’t want to just talk at people about this; we want them to be able to enjoy and see and taste what good, healthy, nutrient-rich, plant-based food is all about,” says Vaught.
Vaught has also started hosting small plant-based cooking classes that echo what she shares on her blog, Edible Musings. Her first course covered Buddha bowls, and her next, scheduled for Jan. 30, revolves around healthy Super Bowl snacks.
Another key element of the group’s work will be to bring education to communities and neighborhoods that may not have access to this kind of information, as well as to offer support to those already on the path, or the veg-curious.
“Lauren and I both live in plant-based households, but i can imagine the struggle of someone doing this alone, surrounded by family members who aren’t supportive,” says Champion.
Both women (and their husbands) have experienced numerous health and lifestyle benefits since making the switch to a plant-based diet — hence their commitment to spreading the good word.
Champion says her physician calls the end goal of this lifestyle “compressed morbidity.” As Champion explains it: “You’re living fully and active and healthy and vibrant until the very end rather than spending years on oxygen or in a wheelchair or suffering from any preventable disability that could be reduced by plant-based nutrition.”
PlantPure Nation’s organizers see Asheville as fertile ground for its efforts. “If we see great things happening [in Asheville], we will not hesitate to share this progress with the rest of the Pod network. This is the beauty of the movement we are launching,” says Campbell. “People everywhere can come together, take action, and achieve success that we can then share with others to create a massive cycle of social invention and learning.”
Currently, the team is seeking venues where they can host events and demos — community centers, co-op meeting rooms, condo association spaces, etc. — as well as additional volunteers to help spread the word. You can learn more about the local PPN pod at PlantPurePods.com (search Asheville) and on Facebook at Facebook.com/PlantBasedWNC.