Our last Food Revolution Network Year in Review post began, “2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for almost everyone. And yet, we all have reasons to be grateful. For instance, it continues to be a true privilege to work with you for a healthier and brighter future. Thank you for all the ways you join us in this mission.”
That’s what we wrote a year ago. Now, COVID-19 is still with us and still impacting many aspects of our lives (including the way we eat). But we see important silver linings, and are incredibly grateful to you, our community, for allowing us to sustain our work.
In this post, we want to share some of what we’ve accomplished this year towards our goal of healthy, ethical, and sustainable food for all — and what gives us hope for the new year.
Let’s start with a story.
A Life-Changing Experience
Christopher Sample is Chief of Staff for a City Councilmember’s office in the city of Philadelphia, and former national president of the Black Alumni Society at the University of Pennsylvania. He’s spent his career in public service, and his passion in life is expanding opportunity for all.
Then, in 2020, Christopher got a terrifying diagnosis of stage 4 prostate cancer. His doctors told him his condition was very difficult to treat.
Thankfully, Christopher found Food Revolution Network, and joined our membership community, WHOLE Life Club. He regained hope, implemented what he learned, and the results have been extraordinary. Following a recent and deeply moving “thank you” phone call, he wrote to us:
“Ocean, it was great speaking with you today. As I told you through my tears, I had a full body scan done last week regarding my stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosis. It’s been a year. Man, how time flies. I got the results today, and the scans were fantastic. The tumor in my stomach has shrunk to the size such that… the doctors are developing strategies to not only manage the cancer but possibly cure it. They said whatever I’m doing, to keep on doing it. I’m so grateful to you and the Food Revolution Network (FRN) for providing whole food, plant-based information for healthier lifestyles. The information FRN provides is saving lives. If I didn’t find you… I would still be eating meat, dairy, and processed foods. The membership to FRN has changed my life. The timely, health-related information, recipes, and product information I feel have changed the course of my situation. I can’t thank you enough. Please, please continue this life-changing work.”
Christopher’s life passion, now, is to share the food revolution message with as many people as possible, with a particular focus on the African-American community in which he finds his roots.
We find Christopher’s story deeply moving. And yet, it’s also not especially unusual. In fact, at FRN, we hear stories like this — of lives changed and health restored — almost every day. And every one of them moves us, inspires us, and fuels our commitment to carry on with this vital mission.
Finding an Upside In Tragedy
Finding an upside in the midst of tragedy may be a theme of the pandemic. COVID-19 continued to take a horrible toll in 2021, causing many deaths and much physical suffering, as well as contributing to economic hardship, workplace burnout, mental health challenges, and social and political polarization. At the same time, SARS-CoV-2 appears to be waking people up to the need to take their own health seriously. Suddenly, chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and obesity are being recognized as immediate threats to life, and not just conditions to be managed long-term.
As writer Caroline Schoeder put it, “Some people change their ways when they see the light; others when they feel the heat.”
The heat generated by another year of COVID-19 appears to be motivating more and more people to turn toward healthier lifestyles, and especially more plant-based diets. Nearly one in five people in the UK reported eating more vegan or vegetarian food in early 2021 compared to 2020. The number’s actually higher in the US, at 23%, with young people leading the change. And there’s solid evidence that a plant-based diet can significantly reduce your chances of severe COVID-19. A six-country study estimated that eating plant-based can drop your odds of experiencing severe COVID outcomes by 73%.
And the market is taking notice. Global demand for plant-based meat alternatives is forecast to continue rising during the next several years, fueled both by health and environmental concerns. In Europe and Canada, McDonalds is debuting a PLT (plant, lettuce, and tomato) sandwich. And plant-based milks are taking up more and more refrigerator and shelf space in chain supermarkets and natural foods stores.
Some restaurants and food brands are taking a stand for health and the environment by moving in a plant-forward direction, too. A New York Michelin-starred restaurant reopened in 2021 with a completely plant-based menu. The head chef at Eleven Madison Park explained the change by noting that the current food system “is not sustainable.” Other restaurants around the world, from Minneapolis to San Francisco to Bordeaux, France, are also making the shift to plant-based.
Increasingly, the health conversation and the environmental conversation have dovetailed, as it becomes clear that to be healthy, individuals require a healthy planet. Epicurious, the digital media brand from Condé Nast publishing house that focuses on food and cuisine, announced in April 2021 that they will no longer feature recipes that use beef due to the climate impact of cattle ranching.
When one of us (John) wrote Diet For a New America in the mid-1980s, these were the kinds of systemic changes he was hoping would happen. They’ve been a long time coming, to be sure, and there’s certainly a long way yet to go, but we’re thrilled to be part of a movement that’s bending the arc of history toward healthy, ethical, and sustainable food for all.
Our Contributions to the Food Revolution in 2021
In 2021, together with the Food Revolution Network team of 25+ staff, and thanks to you and the rest of our 750,000+ members, we have:
- Published 97 new and in-depth articles on cutting-edge food and health topics — and 194 delicious, whole food, plant-powered recipes — reaching more than four million unique readers on our website. In total, viewers visited pages on our site over 14 million times. And they spent a lot of time there, averaging over 13 minutes per visit. (According to some web experts, anything over two minutes is “pretty impressive”).
- Funded the planting of more than 170,000 organic fruit or nut trees in low-income communities as part of our collaboration with Trees for the Future.
- Raised awareness about, and donated substantial sums to Wholesome Wave, in support of their Produce Prescriptions campaign. The goal: Every patient with a diet-responsive chronic illness can be prescribed veggies by their health care provider, and have them paid for by insurance. Yes, it is possible — and it’s been proven to be a cost-effective intervention!
- Generated more than 1.7 million engagements and 51 million impressions across our social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter).
- Reached more than 320,000 participants (who listened to more than a million hours) with the 2021 Food Revolution Summit. (Day one of the 2021 Summit was the most popular, with Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Kristi Funk, and Dr. William Li sharing their wisdom on How Food Can Change Your Life.)
- Shared the award-winning, solution-inspiring film, The Need To Grow, with more than 150,000 people.
- Shared our Food For Health Masterclass with more than 58,000 people.
- Helped more than 3,500 people implement a healthy eating lifestyle with our Plant-Powered & Thriving course.
- Produced the Healthy Heart Masterclass and course with leading cardiologist Mimi Guarneri, MD — sharing the Masterclass with more than 70,000 people and the course with more than 2,500 people.
- Shared the Brain Breakthroughs Masterclass, taught by leading neurologists Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, with more than 130,000 people, and shared their Healthy Brain course with more than 5,000 people.
- Shared 52 Action of the Week videos, 13 expert interviews, 312 fabulous recipes, 15 live coaching calls, 15 live “Culinary Q&A” calls, six “Tea Parties”, six “In the Kitchen With Nichole” events, and a steady stream of support with our WHOLE Life Club membership community, which has grown to more than 8,500 active members.
- Provided wisdom and support to help our members strengthen their immune systems and reduce the lifestyle-induced comorbidities that can make all the difference in the event of a COVID-19 infection.
- Published a series of articles to support new gardeners. Our “How to Grow” topics include: celery, garlic, tomatoes, and hydroponics. And we have more of these planned for 2022 and beyond.
- As an expression of our commitment to healthy, ethical, and sustainable food for all, we continued to host a series of Food Revolution Conversations with prominent leaders working for a more healthy and equitable world for all. We’ve also published in-depth articles on other critical social issues, including the indigenous food movement, community gardening, and food inequality.
Behind all of these statistics are people whose lives have been changed, diseases reversed, vitality restored, and who are feeling better, clearer, and more confident even in such uncertain times. We hear stories of life-changing healing and transformation almost every day, and they fill us with awe and gratitude — and with determination to carry on.
Most Popular Food Revolution Network Blog Posts in 2021
We’re proud to say that our most visited blog posts did not rely on dancing drones, wardrobe malfunctions, or headlines such as “Man tries to hug a wild lion, you’ll never believe what happens next” for their popularity. Here are our top five from 2021, with their new readership stats.
- Are Tomatoes Good for You? – 134,138 readers
- Are Air Fryers Worth It? + 5 Healthy Air Fryer Recipes to Consider – 112,192 readers
- Garbanzo Beans: Health Benefits, Downsides, & Best Uses of Chickpeas – 97,654 readers
- Is Watermelon Healthy? – 96,202 readers
- Healthy Salad Recipes to Enjoy Any Time of Day – 87,100 readers
Most Popular Food Revolution Network Recipes
We always wonder which of our recipes will garner the most attention, sharing, and praise. And we have to admit, the winner surprised us, considering it’s an ingredient rather than a dish or a meal. But hey, it’s for a healthy sweetener that can replace sugar, so it probably featured in many other recipes in many homes this year.
- Super Simple Homemade Date Paste – 16,879 views
- Carrot Cake Overnight Oats – 13,425 views
- Moroccan Baked Chickpeas – 12,517 views
- 2-Ingredient Flax Crackers – 12,329 views
- 12-Ingredient Superfood Salad Bowl – 11,464 views
With Gratitude from Us to You
This year has touched many of us in painful ways. Some have sought relief in self-reinforcing echo chambers, separating themselves from their fellow earthlings.
Yet with your help, in 2021, the Food Revolution Network community has continued to make noise for a healthy, ethical, and sustainable world — for all of us. And in spite of — or perhaps because of — the sorrow so many of us feel, that noise has often been joyful; a celebration of life, of love, of the powerful possibilities of a compassionate community. And of course, a celebration of nourishing food.
We couldn’t do it without you. All those numbers we shared — visitors, readers, page views, members — represent actual human beings participating in and making use of our work. Contributing to it with thoughtful, grateful, and provocative comments. Funding it with your purchases of our programs. Sharing it with others.
Thank you for being there for us, and for yourself, in 2021.
Thank you for caring about the food you eat, and its impact on the future.
And thank you for every food choice you make, and every bite you take, that is in alignment with your values. We are humbled and grateful to be able to work with you to make things, hopefully, a little bit better on this planet.
On behalf of our entire team, we thank you for your partnership in the food revolution.
And we wish you all good things in 2022 and beyond.
May all be fed. May all be healed. May all be loved.
Ocean Robbins and John Robbins
Co-founders, Food Revolution Network
Tell us in the comments:
- How has the food revolution impacted your life during this past year?
- What are you most looking forward to in 2022?
Feature Image: iStock.com/OKrasyuk