This month, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams authorized a $10,000 discretionary grant to support plant-based nutrition education at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate College of Medicine. The funds will go toward establishing the Food as Medicine Initiative, a supplemental program to the existing nutrition curriculum. Students at SUNY will be offered online courses from eCornell and the Gaples Institute and enrollment in the program opens this month.
Last year, SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University established the Committee on Plant-Based Health and Nutrition, a multidisciplinary effort by the SUNY College of Medicine, School of Public Health, and the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President with the ultimate goal of helping communities, such as residents of Central Brooklyn, that suffer from diet-related illnesses—including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and some cancers—learn about plant-based nutrition as a form of medicine.
“Diabetes and cardiovascular disease are highly prevalent in our communities, and plant-forward nutrition is a powerful tool for prevention and treatment,” Elizabeth P. Helzner, PhD, MS, Associate Professor and Interim Chair at SUNY Downstate Epidemiology and Biostatistics, said. “We are excited to share this great educational content with our medical and public health students.”
Healing New York with plant-based nutrition
This grant from the Brooklyn Borough President’s office is a continuation of Adams’ personal plant-based journey. Prior to going vegan in 2016, Adams struggled with debilitating illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, which led him to partially lose his sight and mobility and receive a prognosis from his doctor that he would likely lose fingers and toes due to nerve damage. After removing animal products from his diet, Adams’ health quickly improved. Now, Adams is supporting plant-based education for medical professionals in order to save other New Yorkers from diet-related illnesses.
“My own personal health journey of overcoming Type 2 diabetes taught me the importance of a healthy diet. 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,” Adams said. “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.”
This initiative is one of many that Adams has implemented throughout his career as Brooklyn Borough President. In addition to helping to get plant-based meals on the menu at 1,200 NYC schools, in 2018, Adams spearheaded the $400,000 Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program in the NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue medical system which focused on providing whole-food, plant-based nutrition and lifestyle counseling to critically ill patients.
Could NYC have its first vegan mayor?
In November 2020, Adams officially announced his candidacy for mayor of NYC. Adams is running against notable candidates, including former NYC Sanitation Department Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
Ahead of the approaching June 22 primary, Adams has consistently led in public polls, including two conducted this last week. A Fontas/Core Decision poll placed Adams five points ahead of Garcia with 18 percent of the vote, while a WPIX/Emerson poll had Adams and Garcia statistically tied for the lead. If elected on November 2, 2021, Adams would become the first vegan mayor of NYC.