Heart Attack Survivor Inspires Over 1,000 to Go Vegan

Doug Schmidt’s annual vegan challenge sparks interest in plant-based living in New York School Districts.


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New York-based teachers and administrators—a total of 1,300 individuals across 35 school districts and one community college—have taken a “10-Day Jumpstart Your Health Challenge” led by Doug Schmidt, a wellness coordinator for Rochester School District. Schmidt suffered a near fatal heart attack at the age of 49, which inspired him to transition to a plant-based lifestyle, and to launch the 10-day challenge three years ago to help others. Schmidt’s first challenge attracted 30 participants, and this year that number has since grown to 1,300. Challenge participants receive a free T-shirt and are provided with resources such as a website, Facebook group, and copy of The Engine 2 Diet—a plant-based food plan created by vegan ex-firefighter Rip Esselstyn. Schmidt told VegNews that many challenge participants have shared their personal health struggles and that the challenge has been a positive experience, exposing participants to new flavors and recipes. “We talk about moving the needle from unhealthy omnivore to healthy vegan,” Schmidt said. “We are moving that needle one person at a time, a bit closer to helping them find true health.” Health has been a driving factor in encouraging people to go vegan with the 2017 release of documentary What The Health, creating a positive effect, driving hundreds in Texas to adopt a plant-based lifestyle, as well as elite athletes in the NFL and NBA.