A group of female leaders, most of whom are women of color, have come together to implore the Biden-Harris team to take steps to address the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the ‘shadow pandemics’ of food insecurity, chronic illness, racial and gender-based structural inequality, and climate change.
The JIVINITI Women’s Coalition – led by Boston-based research nonprofit The Virsa Foundation – has written an open letter to the incoming US administration outlining a 3-point strategy that includes:
• Deindustrializing animal production and consumption and encouraging a shift to a plant-based economy. This includes supporting Cory Booker’s and Elizabeth Warren’s Factory Farm Bill, as well as banning fur farms and closing live animal markets.
• Using research methods based on human biology, rather than animal testing, in the search for a safe, effective vaccine against Covid-19.
• Issuing urgent pandemic nutrition guidance based on a whole-food, plant-based approach
The coalition, which is made up of evidence-based nutrition, medical science, advocacy, social justice, leadership, food insecurity and anti-hunger organizations (including the Vegan Women’s Leadership Network), is also urging Harris via a petition on Change.org to take Million Dollar Vegan’s 31-Day Vegan Challenge.
The campaign’s hashtag is #plantpoweredkamala.
“Covid-19 has highlighted the huge problems caused by our ailing food system including chronic illness and low immune resilience which is costing America $250bn a year in healthcare costs,” says Nivi Jaswal, founder of The Virsa Foundation, whose JIVINITI program is carrying out research into low-income women and women of color who live in food deserts and suffer structural inequalities in the US.
“People of color living in distressed zip codes have much lower access to fresh, plant-based foods to keep them healthy.”
Her views are echoed by other women in the coalition.
“As a nurse leader, there is nothing more important right now than the health of the planet,” says Meryl Fury, MSN, RN, the CEO and president of the Plant Based Nutrition Movement in Chicago.
“Plant-based eating is one known way to support the sustainability and health of the earth and all its inhabitants. Learning about nutrient-dense plant-rich eating first-hand is a life changing experience. I believe VP Elect Harris would be deeply touched, moved and inspired by the experience. My hope is that she would see the value of increasing the support for this type of diet and be moved to include it as a way to protect the health of vulnerable populations.”
|Meryl Fury, MSN, RN, CEO and president of the Plant Based Nutrition Movement||Gwenna Hunter, founder of Vegans of LA and Vegans for Black Lives Matter||P Angelicia Simmons, JD, founder of the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute of Advocacy and Social Action|
Gwenna Hunter, founder of Vegans of LA and the Vegans for Black Lives Matter Community, manages a Vegan Food Aid program in Los Angeles that helps provide organic and locally grown produce and hot vegan food to communities of color.
“People that look like me are suffering from COVID-19 at alarming rates and they need to be told by our leaders ways they can stay healthy,” says Hunter. “Vice President-elect Kamala Harris should go vegan to set an example and show everyone that if she can do it, so can they.”
Women of color have been severely impacted by the coronavirus in what some economists are calling a ‘pink recession’ that could set back a generation of women.
A UN report found LatinX women have experienced large-scale unemployment as many work in the service industry.
In addition, statistics from the National Women’s Law Center in Washington DC reveal that since March 2020, 57% LatinX women and 53% Black women say they’ve lost income, while more than 1 in 6 Black and LatinX women reported not having enough food in the past week.
“We need to move away from animal-based consumption and exploitation that is detrimental to our health, as well as the planet, and towards a plant-based economy with a strong focus on whole-food, plant-based eating,” says Jaswal, a former Unilever executive originally from India who has overcome her own health challenges by following a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle.
“This will provide us with the resources to battle the current coronavirus pandemic as well as prevent future pandemics and address the racial and gender-based structural inequalities in our society.”
P Angelicia Simmons, JD, founder and executive director of the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute of Advocacy and Social Action in North Carolina), which advocates for Black girls who are being pushed out of school and to address the overcriminalization currently occurring in public school systems in the US, agrees.
“Kamala Harris has a platform especially for marginalized individuals who are being impacted the most by COVID-19,” says Simmons, whose program has included a healthy eating component to include the tenets of veganism. “Her change and message can literally save lives.”
For Jacque Salomon, founder of Seeds to Inspire in Arizona, which educates underserved and marginalized communities on health, including plant-based nutrition, it’s the duty of women to lift each other up.
“How do I help the most amount of people who need us the most in the shortest amount of time? Those most vulnerable to climate destabilization, hunger, disease, depression, anxiety, oppression, and hopelessness? It is what drives me every day because that was me,” says Salomon.
“When I discovered the power we have over our own health, mind, body, spirit, family, community, and culture, I can do nothing else than fight for others to experience the healing I’ve experienced.
“Women must stand for what is just and truthful. We must have integrity in leadership. Here’s Kamala’s chance to show up and to do what’s best for our BIPOC communities.”
READ the open letter to President-Elect Joe Biden, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, members of the Presidential Transition Team, special Presidential Envoy on Climate John Kerry, and members of the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Advisory Committee.