We interviewed Benji Kurtz, founder of the Alliance to Repair the American Diet and Remedy Food Project. He told us how he gets so many big speakers to his events, the difference between vegan and plant-based, and why he wants to sit down with Hillary Clinton.
Beyond being plant-based, you also eat no sugar, oil, or salt. How do you socialize and eat with other people?
I do eat sugar/oil/salt (SOS) on occasion. I have found that trying to be 100% compliant only leads to disastrous consequences! My wife and I choose to not use SOS in the house, and whenever possible when we eat out. We do eat out or bring in occasionally, and those meals do sometimes include Salt, Oil or Sugar. To me, if my “cheat” meals are vegan meals with the occasional unhealthy ingredient, I am far ahead of the game. That plan works best for both of us.
How does your organization, the Alliance to Repair the American Diet, qualify as a charity?
We’re a nonprofit corporation. Our mission is to educate the public (and the medical community) about how chronic Western diseases can be prevented and/or reversed by what we choose to eat. Through our live events, our 21-day educational programs, our future cable TV on-demand network and other vehicles, our goal is the same: showing people that what’s on the end of their forks can and will change their health, our planet, and the welfare of sentient creatures! (We couldn’t agree more! In fact, these are Lisa’s favourite plant-based trends for a healthier world)
What do you want to achieve with the Remedy Food Project?
I want to be able to present the same evidence that I was shown when I first started my plant-based journey and to lay out the scientific facts to the huge majority of people who simply don’t know the truth. Making choices once given all the evidence is one thing; going down the road of generations before us and living shorter, more unpleasant, less-healthy lives without knowing that control is within our grasp is another. I want to expose the lies that we’re told day in and day out by powerful industries and lobbying groups, present actual science to those who incorrectly are of the belief that high-protein, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets are in any way healthful, and try to persuade others to live a clean, healthy lifestyle that promotes health.
Do your events attract people who already believe in the benefits of a plant-based diet, or new people?
Both! We see a combination of those who are ‘already in the choir’ who want to meet their heroes, vegetarians considering veganism, unhealthy vegans wanting to get healthy, what I call the ‘veg-curious’ who would be interested in making a change but aren’t sure how, and many people who consider themselves healthy because they only eat grass-fed beef and farm-raised seafood. We see all types and all are certainly welcome.
Most events have one or two big speakers – you have over fifteen! How can you afford to have all of them together?
I’ve always been a math person, and honestly the math behind live events is money and money out. Being conscientious of the budget and making sure that tickets are set at the right price and sold in proper quantities is the only ‘secret’ (not really a secret). (We’re really excited about the speakers at the Toronto Live Event including Dr. T Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, The Happy Herbivore, and local chef Doug McNish!)
What’s the best thing that comes out of your events?
People emailing me telling me that they have changed their diet/lifestyle based on speakers that they saw at one of our events!
What do you define as the difference between vegan and plant based? (Is being vegan enough?)
To me, veganism is a lifestyle, plant-based is a diet. You can be vegan and be extremely unhealthy, living off Oreos and potato chips and meat substitutes. That’s not going to lead to a healthy life, however. Focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts & seeds and minimizing salt, oil and sugar is the way to get cholesterol levels down and lead a long, healthy life. To me, a vegan is someone who not only excludes all animal products, but is also careful not to use animal products in other areas of life, such as clothing, cosmetics, outer wear, etc. As much as my beliefs align with many vegan causes, our nonprofit is about the health and nutrition side of plant-based living.
What’s your favourite snack food?
I love unsalted, no-oil cashews (raw or roasted). They’re high in fat so I try to limit myself to a handful. Or two.
People assume vegans love all produce – what are three things you don’t enjoy?
Mushrooms, asparagus, and avocados. (Wow! You are officially the first vegan we’ve met who doesn’t like avocados!)
If you could share a meal with anybody, who would it be with, and what would you talk about?
Hillary Clinton. As the democratic nominee for President of the US this year, she has the largest pulpit to try to affect positive change. Although her husband has had the opportunity to realize the benefits of a (mostly) plant-based diet, Hillary has not, and she could and should. For a sitting President to be able to speak truth to power and be honest about the effect that the Standard American Diet (SAD) has on our health and economy, the world as a whole and animal welfare – the potential change is almost too much to imagine! Fortunately we do have some high-profile politicians in this country (such as Senator Cory Booker and former Representative Dennis Kucinich) who have adopted a vegan diet, and hopefully that number will continue to grow.