What We Need Now: Veganism

April 15, 2021

What We Need Now, Season 2, Episode 3: Veganism

We’re ruffling a few feathers for this month’s episode as we tackle the hotly-debated topic of veganism. As we continue our dive into interrogating white supremacy culture we come across the key issue of food, our ability to access it, and what the impacts are for the planet. Taking a closer look, we explore what veganism offers us in terms of an alternative way of consuming food and who gets left behind along the way. If we take a look at environmental justice work, we easily see many calls for veganism and plant based lifestyles to protect animals but what we don’t always see are the Black and Brown communities that are also a part of this dialogue. Our guests this month, Jenna Chanel and Sie Savage, give us some insight on why that is and how veganism and plant-based diets can be a unique way to think about fueling your body with the nutrients it needs.

“I’ve been cutting dairy here-and-there, stopped eating fish and seafood, and in the last two years that I like, made the full transition (to veganism). I haven’t struggled with allergies, asthma, and other things that I struggled with like a lot as a child and a young adult.” Jenna Chanel

Listen to Episode 3 now!

Veganism is a dietary and lifestyle plan where you do not consume, or purchase any commodities, that come from animals. This means everything from no angus steaks to no leather belts. With any plan of this nature there are different theories and practices, such as the debate on whether consuming honey is vegan, but overall it is a deliberate shift away from the meat and animal product industry. This shift away from the meat industry has a direct impact on the health of our planet as the land impacts of mass farming, producing feed for cattle, and water usage all are a part of the ecosystem in which we live. As good as that may sound for our planet the “other side of the coin” is that a plant based lifestyle is still not accessible for the majority of people, especially low-wealth, Black and Brown communities which this episode goes into more detail about.

This inaccessibility can be framed as “food apartheid”, a term coined by organizer Karen Washington and popularized by justice scholar Ashante M. Reese. Food apartheid simply describes the layered, economic, racial, geographic, and faith-based, oppression that marginalized communities face when it comes to getting healthy, affordable food. This framing helps us better understand what Jenna Chanel and Sie Savage offer in this episode about the S.A.D. Diet (Standard American Diet). Their exploration about food accessibility, what makes up a good diet, and the specific benefits of a plant based diet allow us as listeners to be able to better understand what tools are at our disposal for tackling the issue of what we put into our bodies for nutrition.

“And one of the things that I like to focus on as a health coach is we are what our food eats. So in terms of that, having an understanding of where my food comes from is more important…” – Sie Savage

Don’t forget to listen to all our episodes from Season 2!

This episode covers a lot of ground as it pertains to veganism but one thing is clear, this is a conversation that touches a lot of different areas. From white supremacy culture to food accessibility to consciously shifting away from the meat industry we can see, and listen in this episode, about the various ways the veganism movement, even if we’re not vegans, contributes to the broader movement for healthy, affordable food. As you glide through the episode we invite you to take time to reflect on what Jenna Chanel and Sie Savage’s offer for how you can think about how we fuel our bodies and how we can engage in critical conversation on how we feed our communities.

Guest links

  • Instagram: @Theteasinvegan.

  • Instagram: @hyer_Wellness

  • Black-owned agricultural organizations:

    •  Soul Fire Farm:  @soulfirefarms Their mission is to highlight injustices and racism in the US food and farming industry.

    • Sylvana Aqua Farms: @sylvanaquafarms Their mission is to democratize food and agriculture in the DC area.

    • Fresh Future Farm: @freshfuturefarm This Black-led non profit farm is committed to teaching communities how to grow and sell natural produce and groceries making equal access to affordable nutritious foods possible for all.

Episode Resources/Further Reading

Full Episode Transcript

Voice Memo: My name is Chelcee Price. I’m based in Orlando, Florida. And I choose a plant-based diet because I like the way it makes my skin look.

Voice Memo: I’m Rondy from California, I eat a plant-based diet because of my health, and the health of the planet and I smell better.

Rico: What up ya’ll? I’m Rico 

Lauren: And I’m Lauren

Rico: And you’re listening to the What We Need Now Podcast by Greenpeace USA

Lauren: We know that the meat industry exploits animals, vulnerable communities and the environment. We also know veganism is a vital part of ending that cycle.

Rico: Yes. And iif we’re being honest, mainstream veganism can come off as paternalistic, classist and white supremacist.

Lauren: That’s why this month we’re discussing veganism: the good, the bad and the hwhite




Rico: So,you know we’re gonna catch some smoke for this right?

Lauren: Oh, I’m well aware, and what’s a conversation without a little controversy?

Rico: Exactly so lets just put it out there now so it’s clear: look we love vegans, we love vegetarians and all our other plant-based friends.

Lauren: Yes, peace, love all that great stuff. But that’s why at the start of this podcast you heard from two Black plant-based individuals and you’ll hear from a few more Black plant-based people throughout this episode. And you’ll hear about why they chose that lifestyle, and y’all know typically mainstream veganism doesn’t include black people. So what we’re trying to do is break the spell, shift the narrative, and bring in new voices into this movement.

Rico: Right, so to start with,  let’s just imagine: what does a typical air quotes vegan look like? 

Lauren: Right, so maybe you see a person with the boho bag, maybe some chacos or Birkenstocks? ’cause that’s what I wear sometimes… some kinky or free flowing or loc’d hair. Or maybe they’re in a freshly ironed Urban Outfitters wardrobe with their little green tea matcha latte lightly in hand. 

Rico: I can see it, and I, you know, I picture like a Patagonia vest and those little foot shape sandals. I think they’re called Vibram. You know, they’re like–they look like hands? And I guess it goes without saying that the person that I’m picturing is white, which is funny because according to a Pew Research Center survey, 8% of black Americans are strict vegans or vegetarians compared to just 3% of the general population

Lauren: And a January poll by Gallup found that 31% of non white Americans had reduced their meat consumption in the past year compared to just only 19% of white Americans. 

Rico: So what are we getting at? Our basic point is that mainstream veganism, like so many progressive movements. Can perpetuate white supremacy culture, especially when it focuses on individualism, perfectionism and the idea that there is only one right way. 

Lauren: And we hope that sounds familiar, because in the last episode, Jonathan and Rico both spoke about a major theme that this season would be calling out. And that’s white supremacy and the culture that it up stands, and we’re trying to call you all in 

Rico: Yes come on in

Lauren: to help eradicate this toxic, paternalistiSie.. 

Rico: capitalist, exploitive… 

Lauren: destructive, parasitiSie.. 

Rico: ashy, hot, nasty… 

Lauren: muggy. Oppressive just just just bothersome, just bothersome 

Rico: System.

Lauren: Amen, Amen

Rico: Amen. 

Voice Memo (Yasmin): Hi, my name is Yasmin and I’m from Chicago. I follow a plant-based diet because I like how it makes me feel. It strengthens the immune system. It increases fiber which a lot of people aren’t aware of how important that really is. It lowers cancer risk and it keeps your weight down. I’ve eaten this way for 45 years. 

Rico: The woman you just heard is my mom and she’s been vegetarian since the 70s. She grew up in a very large family on the South side of Chicago and decided in her 20s to become a vegetarian. And at the time she knew like two vegetarians on the planet, although I guess my Grandfather was also not a big meat eater, but she just went with it and kept going. And so the idea of decreasing meat consumption was pretty much ingrained in my sisters and I from a very young age. When I was really young it was no red meat at all, then eventually no pork until I was allowed to choose myself, at which point. To be honest, I went super hard on like pepperoni pizzas and all the things. And in my defense like


Boca Burgers and Morningstar, were just, were not hitting at that time. The like meat substitution game has greatly improved but growing up we also didn’t have a ton of dairy. In fact, I remember like me and my cousin used to eat cereal with Apple juice which like small aside, some cereals are actually better with Apple juice and I stand by that today. Honey Nut Cheerios with Apple juice is the jam. Anyway, but that was just ingrained in us, it was not made a big deal. It wasn’t like we didn’t. It didn’t define us, but it was something that we knew just like to decrease meat consumption generally. And so then later on in my life I realized that the only time I ever got sick from food was always pork. So I was like, OK, I’ll stop eating pork. And then I started learning more about the impact that factory farming had on the environment, on the rainforest particularly when I started working for Greenpeace and getting involved in some of our rainforest campaigns. I’m like, “wow soy for cattle and cattle farming is a huge, huge contributor to deforestation. And then there’s methane emissions.” And then from there I’m like “OK only meat I’m going to eat, after I saw like a bunch of documentaries, and they’re all, you know, they’re all on Netflix, King of Corn (King Corn), those kinds of things. I’m like, OK, I will only eat meat that I know exactly where it comes from, and I happened to live near a farmers market at the time, so I was so I would only eat meat in that way. But like it kind of gets weird, it kind of gets a little uncomfortable when you go to somebody’s house and they make a meal for everyone and you’re trying to explain to them like, “no, I eat meat, but I only eat meat from this dude Dan at the stall at Logan Square Farmers Market.” It gets a little…It gets a little weird and so eventually I was just like, OK, I’m going to just try giving up meat completely and see what happens. So for Lent in I think 2012, I gave up meat and alcohol. Alcohol lasted about a year and meat has lasted until now. 

Lauren: Wow, that is really interesting. Really interesting. I, I am. There are pieces. OK, so I I similarly paused on my own meat consumption like trying to avoid the carbon and the methane emissions that came with it. Methane, excuse me, but I’ll go into mine a little bit so I grew up in Atlanta. And I grew up eating everything my mom or my grandmother cooked for the family obviously, and so at that point I was an complete…omnivorous. So anything and everything was what I ate because they knew how to make everything taste great. So there was no question about it. Like right, and everything was made with love. So the thing I never got sick from anything like it was just all all love. But when I was an undergrad, I  actually engaged in this class assignment that asked us to choose one sustainable action for two weeks, and similarly I found out about. Ugh, just all of the horrors of the meat industry from a social perspective, but also the effects on the environment. And I was just like, “you know what? I think I’m just going to cut out all meat and dairy like all, just just I’m just going to go straight raw vegan.” So for folks who don’t know that that means that there’s no cooked foods like at all.

Rico: You went hard.

Lauren: Hard honey yasss. So pure avocado, I was avocado, pistachios, nothing but salad everyday like and so on and it was great and I kept that going for awhile, even past the assignment because I felt so great and I didn’t stay raw vegan but I decided to go ahead and keep up, you know, my no consumption of dairy or meat, but I ended up moving back home some years later and it became so culturally difficult as a person from South East Atlanta to avoid family functions, right? ‘Cause like the pillar, the primary pillar in Black Southern culture is food like and I’m sure and to be fair, all cultures we all like to eat. We’re humans. We need nourishment, yes, but for my family and friends and even like the folks who I worked with like food, was how we showed love, is how we showed appreciation. So it’s time to celebrate? You gon get fed. Someone’s hurting? You gonna get fed. Like for me, it was about..it.. It was a problem when I couldn’t be a part of that expression. You know that that expression of love that deeply rooted, kind hearted expression of love that came from those people who love me. You know, I felt kind of felt like I was being a little offensive saying like, “hey, sorry I can’t eat anything you’re offering me right now.” So yeah, I felt like, you know I was missing out and I was hurting my mom’s feelings a lot. She didn’t say anything you know. God bless mama. But…and to clarify a little bit more on this missing out piece for folks who don’t know. It’s like collard greens and green beans were slow boiled in Turkey meat, candy, yams, or sweet potatoes, they have butter in them. Like that’s how, you know, our family cooks. It’s how things…were made to taste so great I’m not gonna lie. But but the barbecues, the birthday parties, the pool parties, all of that was kind of off limits for my tummy because I was vegan. You know, for a few years. And at that point, like I couldn’t like, you know, have a piece of cheese every now and then because I actually tried that once and actually got very sick. So, so it was completely off limits. So naturally as I was home back in Atlanta and kind of like doing a little bit of traveling throughout the South, I just naturally became omnivorous again and I just started eating everything under the sun. But I can’t really pinpoint what caused me to shift back. And it wasn’t just the work with Greenpeace, but I think I had a moment where I had decided like. I wanted to go back to the time where I felt really, really great and that was when I was vegan, so that’s not necessarily where I am now, but I am back way more plant-based than I had been in the past couple of years. 

Rico: Word. it’s interesting to hear the whole journey. Like I feel like you’ve been…You’ve been on so many different sides of it and really, that’s the thing, right? If the goal is to decrease overall meat consumption in the world, then we’re going to need like some some vegetarians, we’re gonna need some omnivores. We need people to just decrease their meat. We need a lot more than just the pure you know air quotes “vegans.”

Lauren: Yeah, you’re right, you’re right, I mean and yeah, like The thing is, life is like hella fluid. And I think we don’t take the time to–I think veganism can be really exclusive and like for instance, I feel like I have to say that I’m pescatarian. Although 75% of my meals are without any consumption of meat, you know that includes seafood or dairy. But it makes me think, and this might hit a nerve for some of the folks who are listening, but a self proclaimed vegan might just, just might want to slip up and have a cream cheese danish one day. And it’s like do they? Do they have to lose their vegan card? You know, I’m just saying. 

Rico: Don’t take away the “vegan card.” I mean it doesn’t have to be that way right? Like one thing I think is a great gift of having been vegetarian is that you get asked the question all the time. Why are you vegetarian or why are you vegan and people don’t really ask meat eaters? Why do you eat meat you know? I mean, I think that intention behind it is really, really dope. And ultimately like if you have that intention you’re like. “This is what I’m trying to do” and “This is why I’m eating this way.” If you slip up here and there, or if you you know you know, I’m saying you’re not like perfect, you didn’t achieve the 100% vegan card like you’re still accomplishing, and so in your case you know you’re plant-based, your omni. You came back to plant-based. Overall you did it, you know, you decreased your carbon footprint. There doesn’t have to be one way.

Lauren: It doesn’t, it doesn’t have to be just one way. That Marlo statement I don’t know anyone who’s listening who watched The Wire. I’m a big Wire fan so just shoutout to early 2000s. So that “one way” statement that Marlo made. 

Rico: I feel like our whole podcast is going to get way more subscribers. Just because you just threw out that Wire. That wire reference right there.

Lauren: Aye. Yeah, uh, yeah. And you know, and I kind of want to circle back real quick. One of the other deeper reasons that I decided to come back to that plant-based style and just actually echo a little bit about what your mom said. Like I felt amazing. Like more emotionally balanced. My brain functioned better in the sense that I was less fatigued. I was more astute. I was recalling information with greater ease and get this coffee lovers who are listening. I actually. Had gone to this point where I did not need coffee like you know, like you know how it feels when you just like the foods you eat, sustain you and like give you enough energy like instead of just falling asleep afterwards. Usually like right? You know sometimes it happens in Southern culture. We ain’t going to say nothing about that but OK. Oh but yeah anyway, I just want to circle back to that. But also another reason I circled came back to this plant-based lifestyle is because like. The meat industry, you know it exploits every single entity that it touches across the supply chain. And actually I want to give a quick shout out to one of my colleagues, Tegan, “Tegan the Vegan” on IG. She actually kind of helped coin that statement for me. “The meat industry exploiting every entity that it touches.” And I want to say that like slaughterhouse workers, for example, who are typically LatinX, and oftentimes also like refugees from war torn parts of Africa. These folks are paid unfairly, and they work in terribly unsanitary conditions.

Rico: Yeah, Covid was a great example of that being exploited, as we know that the meatpacking industry was one of the first places that was hit really, really hard by covid. Another aspect of that concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFO’s not only produce bundles of CO2 and methane into the atmosphere. But they also typically situated in rural low wealth communities and the pollution from those farms runs off into waterways and penetrates the soil.

Lauren: Yeah, yeah, and it’s good to note that those low wealth rural communities are often Black, Brown and white. And speaking of runoff, the nitrogen and phosphorus that is produced from that waste, that runoff that you talked about earlier. It can go into like the Gulf of Mexico, for example, and produce these algal blooms that really harm the ocean and make it difficult for life to continue to flourish. But with all that, Rico, there’s a lot there. I just yeah. But Rico, so I’d love to know a little bit about what made you stick with the vegetarian diet all these years. Because you say 12 years like it’s a small feat and let’s just know. I mean, you’re a Black man in America like? Yeah, that’s that’s pretty, pretty rare. Please enlighten us. 

Rico: Yeah, I mean I think its similar reasons to what you said and what my mom said. It felt good for me and for my body. I like the idea of minimizing my impact because again, it’s like so many things that we do… I’m recording this on a microphone into a computer which in some way contributes to like harm in other countries to create these things. There’s so many activities that we take part in that we are unconsciously or even sometimes aware that like it’s causing harm. And so if there’s things that you can do that are easy enough for you to change. Like, why not, you know, and so for me it works for my body or for my mind and I like being able to change that impact. And so I figured I should try to keep it going. And I also get obviously that a vegetarian lifestyle is not accessible for everybody. 

Lauren: Yeah, I mean yeah. And that’s that’s fair to mention that it’s not accessible to everyone and folks, like you or I, you know. You know we probably had very supportive parents and we came from, you know, spaces where we were supported both financially and like, you know, had really great communities around us, but but, you know, let’s talk a little bit about more about the inaccessibility of the vegan lifestyle among folks who are like like us from Black communities. So there weren’t many farmers markets in my neighborhood while it’s growing up. Granted, I grew up in a pretty middle class area, it’s just like predominantly people of color. And that just reminds me of how doubly difficult it was for me to maintain that plant-based diet when I first moved back in, to Southeast Atlanta. Because while I was being 100% plant-based, I remember like naturally becoming more health conscious. Like you said a little bit earlier. Like with that you want to seek out organically, locally grown whole-foods and you know what, speaking of Whole Foods. Those places, like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. You know they were typically non-existent. You know, as they rarely are in these predominantly Black, Brown or Indigenous communities or low wealth communities in general. They’re not around until the gentrification hits. You know.

Rico: Exactly. And to be real, like farmers markets oftentimes like they can be competitive with the Whole Foods and things like that. Like you don’t have to spend, quote unquote your whole paycheck to get those like organic foods. And all those kinds of things. But farmers markets, like Whole Foods like Trader Joe’s, don’t tend to be in low income neighborhoods. So for me, like when I transitioned to vegetarianism, I literally had a farmers market a block away from the house. And so when I moved to the South Side of Chicago, it’s a little bit harder to keep that going, or when I was on tour and I’m in the South or I’m in the Midwest and I’m like trying to eat a meal at a venue and the only vegetarian option every night in a row is like a grilled cheese or pizza and I’m like, yeah I would love a different thing. And so like you know, on the South side, the CSA didn’t deliver there. Not only was the produce less fresh, a lot of times it was actually way more expensive. And then, also to your point. What happens when you’re the one plant-based person in an entire family? And everybody’s pooling resources and eating together?

Lauren: Typically I would assume that plant-based diet person has to get with the program.

Rico: Side dishes. Side dishes is the answer.

Lauren: Right? Side dishes. All you can do. But you know, but in general you know Black people were used to having to acclimate to adjust to adapt to situations. I mean, it’s kind of just in our DNA based on a lot of historical oppression,but, but that’s why black people are magiSie And I also just want to say Black people are magic, but you shouldn’t have to be a superhero to access healthy food. And this piece about produce being perhaps more available, but we don’t talk about how it can be, often less fresh, and it makes me think of like those, you know, those gas station fruits? like those bananas at 711. They might be a dollar. Yeah, and that’s seemingly accessible to most folks right at this point, but supposedly. But bananas, those bananas be mushy and Brown and just like completely unappealing. So we are giving that example to say that like people need access to fruits, veggies, grains and water that will actually nourish their bodies. And you know, I think there’s this deep conspiracy out there that posits itself upon not providing Black communities access to fresh and affordable foods and it’s really clear that the cheaper sources are often quite unhealthy. And not well kept like those bananas. But it’s also interesting though as we talk a little bit about, you know, I think what we’re mentioning here is like what I’ve heard called food deserts, right? But I was recently introduced to this new concept called “food apartheid communities” and this is a term that was coined by. Food justice scholar Ashante M. Reese. we’ll provide some resources for y’all when you check out the blog. But Ashante turned this to say that like food deserts, which is a term that is, I believe, coined by the USDA, which is very racist. I would also let me just hold up on an aside. Check out USDA and how they did Black farmers, y’all. There’s been a lot in the news about that recently, but we won’t go on that tangent here. Anyway USDA, they term food deserts, right? But food Apartheid’s is a little bit more of a comprehensive or holistic phrase that we want to use, and it speaks more to the socioeconomic, the sociopolitical and just the cultural aspects of food inaccessibility. And it’s really just talking about how these urban food structures are like inherently anti-Black, inherently and historically anti-Black and I just I would encourage everybody to do your own research on that.

Rico: I was gonna say what you, what you made me think about that too is like


 a food desert sounds like it’s just naturally occurring.

Lauren: Like right? 

Rico: Like huh nobody it just, became a desert.

Lauren: It’s a biome. So like we can’t, you know we can’t control that. 

Rico: Versus like Food Apartheid is like, “no, actually this is, this is very much structural racism.” It’s such an interesting term.

Lauren: Yeah, it’s intentional. Yeah yeah, there’s this added layer of environmental unjust where the industries that are poisoning communities like the petrochemical plants, for example, which by the way, are indeed fossil fuel industries. Um, these air polluting petrochemical plants housed in Black and Brown communities oftentimes create the plastic that is needlessly wrapped around the veggies that are pretty much already on their way out or their pumped with loads of chemicals and just typically unsustainably harvested and shipped across the country, producing all that CO2 that we don’t need. And I’m just saying that all of this is just this one, two, three  punch of inaccessibility to locally grown organic foods. And these targeted acts of air pollution brought about by fossil fuel industries and the overall degradation of the Earth that results because of all this madness. Why am I saying all this? This is a lot to take in. It’s really just because whether it’s the plastic wrapped or overly priced fruits or veggies or the lack of access to food in general, it’s about our communities not being invested in and I think that has to be a part of the conversation when we’re talking about these lifestyle change based campaigns.

Rico: I feel like you just went off and I want, I want the people to just marinate on that for a second. You know what I mean like, you just drop some knowledge on them. And also like for anybody who clicked this link may because you thought we were bout to talk about everybody should be vegan and I know we just took you on a journey. But our big point is that lifestyle change based campaigns are not accessible for everyone. And as we’ve seen with recycling, they are a really great way for corporations to shirk all of their responsibility. And I feel like Lauren just laid that out


perfectly. So for those of you who do want to hear about the other side of it when we come back, we’re going to hear from two people who can shed even more light on this piece about accessibility of the vegan lifestyle and plant-based diets and communities of color and food access and all those wonderful things. 

Lauren: But first, let’s all take a deep breath center ourselves. And let’s listen to a quick message from our sponsors.


What are you waiting for? You’re sitting in your kitchen making a plate and life is passing you by. You keep procrastinating over and over. “Well, maybe I’ll be vegan next year. Maybe I’ll give up fish next semester.” No, do it right now. Go vegan. That sandwich you’re making? Put some Veganaise on it, pile on some bean sprouts. Throw some quinoa in  there. There’s no reason not to. And that goes for y’all who are already quote unquote vegans. Y’all need to be real vegans show some commitment. What are you waiting for? Another whale to die? More koala bears go extinct. Another oil spill with grease covered baby ducks. Well, you don’t have to go get some almond butter, go chug some cashew milk you spend all day on social media. Why don’t you use it to shame people for their dairy intake. Go to your local Whole Foods, spend that extra $60.00 and slap a steak out of somebody’s hand. How else are we going to save the world waiting for the fossil fuel industry to take responsibility? Trees are dying and life is passing you by. Get off your couch and be vegan today.


Rico: Sie, Jenna, welcome to the What We Need Now podcast. We always like to start off and have everybody just introduce themselves. Your name, pronouns, and whatever you want to say about the work that you do.

Sie Savage: Well. I’m Sie Savage Chambers and my health coach. I’m also a San Mateo County Essential Employee issuing public assistance benefits at the call center. And um, a plant-based chef. Me and my partner have co-founded a health-coaching, wellness business as well as a plant-based vegan food brand.

Jenna: Hi, I’m Jenna. I’m a plant-based chef. I’m a veteran. I’m a Bay Area native. I basically just focus on my plant-based lifestyle, adult entertainment and other things of that sort. 

Rico: So first thing I want to ask about. So we just spent about 20 minutes kind of unpacking and critiquing mainstream veganism and all of the all of the ways that are helpful but can also be problematic. So we just want to hear a little bit about how you all are working in the space to make it more accessible and how, how you’re building towards transformative change through, through the work that you’re doing. 

Sie Savage: I think the primary thing for us is starting that dialogue and having those conversations in the spaces where you wouldn’t generally have them. As Jenna said, she’s in the entertainment space a lot. Which gives us an opportunity to have conversations with folks who maybe wouldn’t be having that. Also, I think in nightlife, so to speak, you’re used to having like fast food or whatever the last minute option is, and within that space where we kind of found the need is that why should we as vegans or plant-based eaters, always just kind of be left without and always having to just eat french fries or whatever else. And basically having limited options I mean. Literally, you know, late night kind of thing on a Friday or Saturday night we’re enjoying ourselves with our friends and they can go have pizza. They can go have burgers. They can go have all these things and we’re very limited. So in terms of starting the conversation and trying to fulfill the need, that’s when we just started making it accessible where friends could come in, drop in and get healthy foods. We are, you know, making our stuff out of whole plant-based vegetables and basically kind of making food sexy and fun again. But not fast food, vegan food. Just your traditional comfort foods. But I’ll let Jenna kind of talk about some of her favourites, ’cause she’s really the head chef and really like the brains behind some of those ideas. I really just kind of get to be a part of that process. 

Jenna: Yeah, so kind of like how he was saying the whole plants like that’s my go to when I started my journey in 2013. I was kind of like a lot of people when they first start using Gardein, Boca Burgers, like now the Impossible meat right? So we have all these substitutes and you’re not really sure what’s exactly in them. And it’s nice to see that you know it’s becoming more mainstream, but that’s their, that’s their go to and what they offer us half the time in these restaurants and these industries that you see like out there to choose from. And it’s like for me I like to try to go with whole plants so beets, mushrooms, eggplant like things that are just natural and just try to turn them into what we would want. So frying them, smoking them, to give them that flavor that you’re looking for versus relying on something like a riblet or ribs or chicken or fish or like the Impossible beef like stuff like that so yeah.

Rico: Why do you think it is that the first go to is always like to just make a fake version of a meat meal? For example? Be honest, I’m on that too. Like an impossible burger. Sure, I’m down. Why do you think that’s to go to?

Jenna: I think it’s the go to because honestly, it’s just what we’re used to. Like we’re already used to seeing burgers, already used to seeing chicken nuggets, we’re used to seeing fish, so in order to like get people over to that side, you kind of gotta give them something they’re familiar with. So it’s just kind of isn’t fortunate because a lot of people don’t know how to step outside of that to create something else that looks kind of similar, like some of the chefs are doing like we’re using like. What is it? Banana Flowers? And like when you patter it and fry it kind of looks like a piece of fish. When you use oyster mushrooms and you leave them in a certain chunkiness and you batter and fry it. People are like, “oh, is that chicken?”  like sure, go ahead try it, it’s chicken, you know. So I think that’s the reason that there’s a lot of these substitutes out there because on top of people wanting something familiar, it’s easier for them to sneak protein in, so I know for me like another vegan chef I follow he asked, like, “do you look for like- do you care about protein is sense when you’re creating your vegan meals”, and I said no. And his answer was like, “Boo,” and I’m like, I mean it is what it is because my goal is to go for a whole plants and like I’m chunky naturally so I don’t feel like my body is suffering from loss of protein, but also looks like some of the replacements. Like I said they do offer like the Impossible Burger that has like at least 12 to 18 grams of protein. And like people are looking for that protein as well. 

Sie Savage: So well I think it’s understated the fact that these animals are also eating like more often than not like a grass fed diet, or if it’s a grain fed diet then that’s not actually healthy either. So it’s like where are these animals getting their proteins? And one of the things that I like to focus on as a health coach is we are what our food eats. So in terms of that, having an understanding of where my food comes from is more important than necessarily the type of protein which I feel like can be left up to choice. One of the doctors that we kind of follow in functional medicine that also really focuses on plant-based lifestyle is Doctor Mark Hymen from Dr. Farmacy  and he just recently came out with his book about the pegan diet which essentially is kind of like combining features of the Paleo diet as well as vegan lifestyle diet which comes down to your type of protein. You know whether that be meat or vegetables, but when people think of protein they only associate it with meat, but I can also say that that’s. Also, because that’s hyper marketed within the industry and I feel like that’s also something that’s very intentional. So when you’re thinking about where all of your information is coming from, who’s paying for the studies is paying for the work well? Ultimately, the meat industry, big ag, you know what I’m saying, so it’s within what’s in their best interest to basically provide information that keeps you limited or otherwise ignorant to the fact that you can get all these other phytonutrients and just as much protein from mushrooms are other plant, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds and still have the same amount of nutrients or still be able to get nutrition. Versus these you know nutrient deficient commodity foods that they’re creating because of the commodity crops like corn, wheat, and soy, which are very common. So I feel like there’s a microcosm of things that kind of come into play with why it’s that way? But I mean ultimately it’s easier. It’s easier to put something in the microwave, put something with hot water than it is to actually you know what I’m saying, go into a garden, but I feel like that’s where we try to start changing that conversation and starting to like normalize cooking, sitting down, eating together again, actually having a meal because there’s a lot that goes into that. You can totally tell the difference with, uh, you know, a home cooked meal with love in it that was you know prepared intentionally, then something that’s just fast food off the street. So I I feel like we try to take that into consideration when we’re having these conversations and also just allowing people the opportunity to see the things that you normally eat in a different way, but really just kind of break out of what this quote unquote normalized thinking. I mean, the standard American diet is called the sad diet, so I mean that alone just a play on words should make you just start questioning the motivation. 

Rico: What does that stand for? What’s the sad diet stand for?

Sie Savage: It’s the Standard American diet. 

Lauren: Oh wow, nice. 

Sie Savage: The standard American diet is called the sad diet. And I mean when you start looking at members and I mean even statistically and you start looking at the disproportionate rates that certain communities are affected. I mean, having access to healthy food shouldn’t be a matter of economic status. 

Rico: 100%. Yeah, I feel like you just said a whole bunch of things that I want to talk about. Going back to the protein thing, I think… You know that’s something that I think is inflated: the amount of protein we actually need. ‘Cause like the first– you tell somebody you have a plant-based diet like, “where do you get your protein,” like that’s the whole…Like, how many times did you ask that as you were formulating your meat-based diet? You know what I mean? Like it’s not that deep and we need way less protein than people think. And then I wanted to hear more about what functional medicine is. You dropped that. And also I think you said phyto nutrients? So First off, what is functional medicine. Could you give us what did you mean by that?

Sie Savage: So functional medicine basically focuses on the body as a whole rather than as an individual system, so as of right now, when you know you go to the doctor, your knee hurts. You know you’re going to go to the joint specialist, or you’ve got cardiovascular problems you’re going to go to a cardiovascular doctor. There’s this individualized approach to medicine where you’re treating the individual symptom sometimes and not necessarily looking for the root cause of the issue. Which is what functional medicine actually looks at. And also incorporates more food essentially as the cure, so we’re looking at food as medicine to intentionally essentially cure or remove disease, but also focusing on the bio-individuality of a person and just knowing that what works for you, Rico, may be different than what works for me. So even just in terms of how we get our protein and how our body responds to those things, taking those things into account as a whole. You know, rather than just one little thing, because ultimately you go to the doctor, they’re going to give you a pill for whatever is associated with their specialty, and more often than not, some of those things can counteract each other, whereas the one thing that we all have in common is food, and it’s amazing the healing properties that actually comes from food. Especially if we just go back to doing what our ancestors did.

Rico:  We’ll be right back. 


Hosts: Hi, I’m Crystal and Valentina and this is Planeta G. Planeta G is a bi-weekly web series on Greenpeace USA on Instagram and on YouTube. It’s basically a show that takes a look at the environmental movement but from a Latinx lens. 

Speaker 1: “It’s funny because like recycling and taking care of the environment, it’s been as this like, very you know white people thing, but it’s like no. I mean, Latinos have been trying to take care of the environment for a very long time. We just don’t talk about it in the same way.” 

Hosts: Salud! Me encanta tu guampa salud (Cheers! I love your guampa)

Speaker 1: “I think that it’s important to fight for environmental issues because as a matter of fact, this is one of those issues that is going to affect us predominantly and that you should care about because it’s going to affect you and your family.” – 

Speaker 2: “I’ve never been on any sort of interview where it was talking about climate change from like a Latinx perspective. Thank you so much for creating this space. It’s so necessary and I’m just so happy that it exists. So muchas gracias.” 

Rico: Planeta G is currently working on Season 2, so stay tuned for that, but in the meantime, go check out Season 1 @ GreenpeaceUSA on YouTube and you can hear about Latin folks and protest art,  climate disasters in Afro Latin X communities. You can even learn how to make your own vegan empanadas. It’s beautiful. 

Hosts: We can’t wait to see you there. Ciao. Adios. 

[Ad End]

Lauren: Tell us, one of the things that I did want to circle back to actually, when you’re talking about kind of how the meat industry has put in this narrative around like what we need in order to like, make sure that our bodies have the right amount of nutrients. It makes me think a little bit about like the milk industry and how that’s like completely something like we don’t need baby cow milk. And we’ve been taught since, you know, for generations that this is something that’s necessary, part of a healthy diet is what babies need.


Sie: For healthy teeth and bones.

Lauren: For healthy teeth and bones, ’cause you can’t get your calcium from anywhere else, right?

Sie Savage: Like, right and it’s like and then really in reality it’s like this is a half ton mammal that is feeding another creature that is supposed to now be half ton. So when we’re looking at you know what I’m saying, health rates that are disproportionate, especially within communities of color. I mean, we’re now looking at two in four, you know, people of color that have diabetes. You know, one in four have cardiovascular disease and things like that. And not in all cases, but I mean looking at that industry in itself, how those animals are treated and where it’s coming from. So it’s not that necessarily milk is bad, for certain people that actually may not be such a bad thing, but it doesn’t work for everyone. So again, just kind of this whole idea of a one size fits all for everyone. Me personally, I don’t even restrict myself. I’m probably about 90% plant-based, but I care more about what I’m eating and where my food is from then necessarily restricting myself or holding myself to a particular standard like, oh, I can’t eat that because that’s not really where my stance is. Overall I do what resonates and works well with my body and I just do what works for me. What makes me feel good. 

Lauren: Right and and with doing what makes you feel good, I notice like in my experience I’m from Atlanta, Atlanta, GA by this where I am right now and one of the biggest issues I have is like folks agree that OK, a vegan lifestyle is probably…probably would make me healthier, but you know, I live in the South so people are way more hesitant to try anything different. And I want to kind of ask Jenna. I know you said earlier that like there, sometimes there are foods that might look a little bit more like the meats that people generally eat, but I’m wondering, do you find that you making those types of foods that you know maybe are some looks similar to a piece of chicken? Do you find that people who aren’t vegan are more likely to kind of transition toward that plant-based lifestyle because they find that comfort food? You know something that represents what they’re normally used to getting in there? 

Jenna: Oh, yeah, definitely. Definitely that’s my goal. Half the time is like recreating like the fried chicken. For me, I’m part Asian. So it’s still lumpia. There’s no beef, there’s no pork. There’– I don’t even tell them there’s mushrooms. Sometimes. ’cause like people are just so against. Like, “Well, how is it this, If it’s not this?” It’s like just try it. Like just eat it. Like it’s you know? Like people literally eat it and just because they know it’s vegan. So like “it’s good but like I could never” I’m like, “what?” Like it’s just so crazy but yeah, some people definitely will try it and be surprised that it’s more alike than what they thought and be kind of like, “alright, I see where you’re going with this. Like if it’s gonna taste like this and look like this then maybe I can.” Because like I like to make macaroni, like I make lobster Mac and like fried chicken, sometimes I make like smothered chicken. But like I said it’s all about like it’s kind of about presentation sometimes unfortunately. Flavor could always be there. Texture could always be there but if it looks like a ******* mushroom there gonna be like, “let me just, you know I gotta cut it up first before they even see the whole mushroom” ‘Cause people are really, like you said, they’re just not willing to even try sometimes. 

Sie Savage: I mean, Jenna definitely made it easier to transition because I know for me, like growing up, the only salad I would eat was, you know some lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, and like a ton of ranch dressing. Or you know what I’m saying like that was what veggies consisted of. So I mean, even in college I couldn’t even imagine dating someone that was eating ’cause I was like. What are we going to eat like? There’s nothing in common, so it was like it was. Only because lifestyle and health that I had to start paying attention to these things and then when I met Jenna and you know it just kind of worked out. I was on this path in terms of learning a lot with health coaching and she was already a practicing vegan. And just making traditional foods that I was used to or recreating things because my family is from the South. So like Louisiana Cajun Creole kind of foods recreating those types of things and being able to relate that to memory or just taste. I mean that’s kind of where my love for it really started to become. I don’t know more of like a passion where I wanted to share that with other people as well, and just having that connection, but definitely just relating it to memory.

Rico: Yeah, so our kind of like “capstone question” that we ask everyone…I don’t know if you watch Desus and Mero, but it’s very similar to the “What Do You Want Your Rainbow to Say?” question. It’s. It’s fine. It’s–one person got the reference in the history of the podcast its fine. 

Lauren: Nobody here knows that. I don’t know that. 

Rico: It’s a great show. I’ve shouted it out on this podcast multiple times, but the question is like what, What do we need now for our communities and to improve our planet? And we want to hear your take specifically with the work that you do.

Jenna: I definitely feel like just like more of an open mind and just like she was saying, starting the conversations, education information and just like for me like I kind of I kind of just drill it into people like some people don’t like to be around me anymore because they just feel like I’m judging everything they’re eating and I am. Because you know it’s it’s a matter of like, life or death to me I think so yeah. 

Lauren: You’re doing it out of love. Its out of love.

Jenna: Yeah, exactly, but you know. And like he said, he’s like 90%. I definitely like not fully 100% because real vegans don’t use honey, supposedly, but I just have like a problem with that and I refuse to stay here and be like I’m not vegan and I’m plant-based because that’s the only thing I use and it’s more out of a medicinal purpose. And like the same thing like I try to be conscious about where that honey sourced and hopefully you know no bees are harmed or. No foul, no you, no harm like. But yeah, you know, I just feel like it’s definitely starting the conversations and just kind of being that advocate in that example, for people like ’cause, people are always surprised at my age and I’m like I’ve been on and off vegan since 2013. I’ve been cutting dairy here-and-there, stopped eating fish and seafood, and in the last two years that I like, made the full transition. I haven’t struggled with allergies, asthma, and other things that I struggle with like a lot as a child in a young adult. So for me, it’s just starting the conversation and like being adamant about it like my friends will literally start eating and they’ll just look at me and I’m like, wait, go ahead, do you like the one that’s fighting? Like weight problems. Eczema. Psoriasis. Like I don’t you probably don’t even know half the other stuff you’re fighting but you know, do you but like I always have something to say about it so I feel like it’s just passing on the knowledge pretty much.

Rico: What about you Sie? 

Sie Savage: Yeah I think for me it’s continuing to engage people in those conversations and to engage in that critical thought, but for me. I know, and I think it’s excellent that more people are catching on to the trend of plant-based eating or being a vegan, but I think the important thing for me is that don’t wait until it becomes an issue for it to become something that you’re looking for a solution to. I feel like for me what got me on the plant-based journey was I was having so many gut intestinal issues and mood issues and so many other things related to depression and anxiety and I didn’t know what to do, so I started going inward. And I just kind of led to these bread crumbs and the more I started to basically educate myself, the more I was like food has a huge portion to do with all of this and then on all levels. So I think continuing to have that conversation, not waiting. You know, especially in the age of Corona, in a pandemiSie Educating yourself about the things that are within your control and there’s no reason why we can’t all start growing our own foods. Have a garden. You know what I’m saying, just little things like that. Putting into practice and again just making it more like a normalized conversation versus something that’s like oh where do you get your plant protein from? Like literally, if I even just got a dollar for how many times I got asked that a day, even just through social media when people find out that I don’t eat meat, it’s almost baffling to me, or you know, versus the amount of people who haven’t tried certain plants and vegetables, or even know that they exist. So you know, I think just continuing to have the conversation.

Rico: I appreciate yall being on the show. Where should people find you? What should they look to connect with you? 

Sie Savage: Tap in @hyer_Wellness or @Hysiesavage on Instagram. H-Y-S-I-E Savage. It’s the easiest way right now. We’ve got a Linktree and then we’ve got some stuff coming up with our website. Some future events. We’re definitely going to be having some local popups in the area and also going to be traveling. So definitely connect. I know she’s definitely going to be on the road here soon and feeding the people, which is what we love to do. 

Lauren: Come to Atlanta! 

Jenna: Yeah, you guys can find me @Theteasinvegan. As far as my culinary expeditions, the teas-in-vegan. Just how it sounds. 

Rico: We want to thank our illustrious guests, Jenna Chanel, AKA the teasin vegan and Sie Savage Chambers. Go follow them on social media. Also, go check out our website where you can read a blog about today’s episode. You can find tools and resources about the topics we discussed. If this is your first “What We Need Now” episode welcome to the family. We got a lot for you. Go check out our episodes on environmental justice or nonviolent direct action or poetry and next month you do not want to miss the episode ’cause we’re going deeper into this topic of food justice and food apartheid which Lauren mentioned earlier. And that’s all we got for you. For now, Like. Comment. Share, subscribe and we’ll see you next time on. What We Need Now

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