In March 2015, guests on the 12th annual Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise got a sneak peek of the documentary film PlantPure Nation, which highlights the importance of following a whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet to promote wellbeing. Since then, the film has been featured in more than a hundred cities across the nation and is available on Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon. The most popular response among viewers? Why didn’t we know this before?
Showing the dramatic and positive effects that a WFPB diet had on residents in film director Nelson Campbell’s hometown of Mebane, North Carolina, the film features the research and expertise of renowned doctors, authors, and long-time Holistic Holiday at Sea speakers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Neal Barnard, and Dr. Michael Greger, among other nutritional scientists. In addition to Nelson, the production team included Fork Over Knives’ (2011) producer John Corry and writer Lee Fulkerson.
The film had a powerful effect on those who watched it. Many people changed their diets immediately, but for some, this was not enough. To answer the desire of audience members to affect change and share what they had learned, the Pod Network formed, and viewers were encouraged to join, connect, and work together to spread the message of plant-based nutrition. The Pod platform provides education, resources, and space for collaboration.
Pods are independently run—the organizers can decide how often their group meets and what goals they want to achieve within their communities. Pods don’t compete with nonprofits and existing organizations, but they provide an umbrella for people of various entities to come and work together in outreach.
A Grassroots Movement Grows
In November 2016, the Pods were transferred to the nonprofit PlantPure Communities (a brainchild of Nelson). Different from PlantPure Inc., which created the film and offers WFPB meals and other support, PlantPure Communities is all about the Pods. The board of advisors includes Nelson, Dr. Campbell, and Dr. Esselstyn‚ among other WFPB advocates.
After reading Dr. Campbell’s The China Study, a woman named Jody Kass attended the 2015 Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise where she saw PlantPure Nation. At the time, Jody was semi-retired after spending three decades working in the nonprofit sector. Little did she know that she’d be so moved by the film and cruise experience that she would become involved in Nelson’s endeavors and take on the position of executive director of PlantPure Communities just a couple years later. Jody is a member of the Pod where she lives in Great Neck, New York.
“When I read The China Study, I was absolutely infuriated that I didn’t understand what was so plain in terms of what the science showed,” she says. “People around me were sick and dying from food borne illness (heart disease and type 2 diabetes) and just didn’t know that they could take control of their health by changing what they ate.”
There are currently more than 460 Pods and over 40,000 members. “Since November, we’ve been working to strengthen the Pods,” says Jody. After the film premiered, tens of thousands of people signed up to join Pods. “The next level is what the Pods are going to do. How do we keep people engaged? How do we give them the tools they need to have an impact in their community and on the world?”
One answer? Toolkits.
Making an Impact
Toolkits are a series of roadmaps. Each topic-specific guide is developed to support the PlantPure Communities Pod Network. So far, they include Leadership, VegFests, Dining Out, and School Lunch.
By November, Pods across the globe will be using the Restaurant Campaign Toolkit to encourage local restaurants to add healthier options to their menus.
Some Pods have decided to launch VegFests, while others brought smoothie bars and plant-based nutrition education to students and their parents at local schools. New toolkits continue to be released to answer the greatest needs identified by the Pods, and will soon include gardening, transitioning to plant-based eating, advocacy, and more.
In addition to providing support to Pods, PlantPure Communities has launched a program it calls “PlantPure Oasis,” to bring education and affordable, nutritious food into underserved communities. There are currently five Oasis Pilot programs. “People’s lives have been changed,” says Jody. “In a recent pilot in Rhode Island, they wanted to make some change happen and ‘democratize’ the nutrition information. More than 25 Pod members spent several hundreds of man-hours shopping and cooking to make this happen and, as a result, over 100 lives have been forever changed.”
Keep the Momentum Going
Jody says that Pods are also a great solution for folks inspired by Holistic Holiday at Sea who want to help others when they return home.
“I think that a lot of people who come on the cruise feel like the lights have been turned on, and they desperately want to share that information,” says Jody. “The Pods are a great place for them to go. They’re set up specifically for that purpose—to find other people who also feel that way. Folks can work together, reinforce each other and, using the Toolkits, choose how to channel their passion to get the word out.”
People get frustrated when they see people in so much pain around them. Pods are a great way to meet other people and help those who don’t know about this diet. We hope you’ll join us on our next “Voyage to Well-being” to find inspiration for wherever you are on your journey to health, meet like-minded individuals, and take home knowledge to share with your friends and family.
We are so excited that Kim Campbell—author of The PlantPure Nation Cookbook and The PlantPure Kitchen—and Dr. T. Colin Campbell are among our dozens of presenters on the 2018 Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise, February 15–25, 2018!