At the 2023 US Conference of Mayors, 1,400 elected officials followed the lead of New York City’s vegan mayor Eric Adams to ratify a resolution promoting a shift to plant-based diets across the country. The leaders say following such an approach can address chronic diseases, climate change and national healthcare costs.
The 91st edition of the annual event saw elected officials of 1,400 cities with a population of over 30,000 convene to discuss social and policy issues, with chronic diseases a major discourse this year. The mayors say the current trajectory of chronic diseases – coupled with rising healthcare costs and the climate crisis – is “unsustainable”.
The US mayors’ plant-based resolution
The resolution involves exploring opportunities to include more plant-based options in any setting where city government provides food to constituents (like schools, hospitals and social services), and promote the benefits of a plant-based approach to constituents through public awareness campaigns. It also aims to evaluate the environmental impact of food choices, move towards a more plant-centred approach for individual and population health – as well as local and global environmental wellbeing – and use these new interventions to tackle budget issues facing every city in the short and long term.
The leaders define a “plant-predominant” diet to include “whole, minimally processed fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole-grains, nuts and seeds”, and allude to numerous studies that show veganism’s positive impact on treating chronic conditions.
The resolution explains that by working to create a healthier population, healthcare costs will also be reduced. According to the CDC, 60% of Americans have a chronic disease, while 40% of adults have two or more such conditions. These include type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension – the leading causes of death and disability in the US, and the primary driver for its $4.1T annual healthcare spending.
Additionally, the mayors say a plant-based eating pattern “relieves environmental stress one meal at a time” – a recent study revealed that veganism can cut an individual’s environmental footprint by 75% compared to a meat-rich diet. This assertion is also an important awareness block for Americans, 40% of whom don’t believe eating less meat would lower their carbon emissions.
They were influenced by a UNEP estimate that says a plant-based shift could reduce mortality and greenhouse gases caused by food production by 10% and 70%, respectively, over the coming 25 years.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams leads the way
In 2021, New York City elected its first vegan mayor, Eric Adams, who celebrated the victory with a Plantega breakfast wrap. Adams has used his platform to promote a plant-based diet in New York City with numerous campaigns, including an expansion of the city’s lifestyle medicine programmes, an introduction of vegan menu options at public schools, hospitals and other government spaces, and an Eat A Whole Lot More Plants drive challenging New Yorkers to eat more vegan food.
The mayors’ resolution cites New York City as an example for its plant-based push, noting that it has promoted and developed partnership models that other cities can build upon. Since New York City’s public hospitals body began a dedicated Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine programme in 2022, patients have seen a significant improvement in their cardiometabolic health, including weight loss, improved blood sugar, and reduction of other risk factors. This switch, implemented across 11 hospitals, is also set to save $500,000 annually compared to conventional meals, while helping reduce New York City’s food-based carbon emissions.
Late last year, the city also partnered with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) to offer free training to 200,000 healthcare practitioners in lifestyle medicine, with a focus on plant-based nutrition education – the largest such programme in the world.
“We applaud the nation’s visionary mayors, who are in unique positions to effect change through work with municipal agencies and affiliated institutions and public-private partnerships,” said Beth Frates, president of the ACLM, which applauded the resolution. “The City of New York has been an exemplary model on which other cities can build, and we urge that this resolution be broadly embraced to improve our nation’s health.”meat plant-based