March 21, 2023
285: From Food To Freedom with Nelson Campbell

After discovering the power of plant-based nutrition, Nelson Campbell embarks on an ambitious journey to spread its message and create a supportive network of plant-based advocates, challenging the status quo and confronting ...

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After discovering the power of plant-based nutrition, Nelson Campbell embarks on an ambitious journey to spread its message and create a supportive network of plant-based advocates, challenging the status quo and confronting economic forces that would keep it from succeeding. Nelson founded Plant Pure Communities, a grassroots organization that supports an international network of local support and advocacy groups called Pods. He is also the writer and director of the documentary Plant Pure Nation, which highlights the healing power of plant-based diets.

 

In this episode, you will learn the following:

  • How does staying humble and having a curious attitude open one up to learning?
  • What strategies can mobilize people to create real change in the world?
  • How does the groundbreaking China Study reveal the relationship between diet and disease?

 

Visit Nelson Campbell’s Socials: 

Website: https://plantpurecommunities.org/

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Transcript

00:00:00 Nelson: The other thing that's been really helpful to me as a filmmaker and it's true in every aspect of life, is that you learn so much more if you don't have an ego, if you just stay humble and you open yourself up. And that's why when we did PlantPure Nation, we took our rough cut on tour. No one ever does that because you only want to show your best cut. But we took our rough cuts. We opened ourselves up to criticism. When you open yourself up and you just have a curious attitude about things, you learn so much more. And so I've just gone through a learning process the past few years. In the final analysis, I figured out really that filmmaking is about writing. It's about storytelling.

00:00:45 Maya: You have more power over your health than what you've been told. This is the Healthy Lifestyle Solutions podcast. I'm Maya Acosta, and I'm passionate about finding healthy lifestyle solutions to support optimal human health. If you're willing to go with me, together we can discover how simple lifestyle choices can help improve our quality of life and increase longevity in a big way. Let's get started. 

00:01:14 Maya: Welcome back to another episode of the Healthy Lifestyle Solutions podcast. I'm your host, Maya Acosta. I'm so excited for today's guest. Many of you often hear me talk about how important it is not only to build community, but to have support as you're transitioning to incorporating more plant-based foods into your life. And so today, I have

Nelson Campbell with me. Welcome, Nelson.

00:01:38 Nelson: Welcome. It's good to be here, Maya.

00:01:41 Maya: It's a pleasure to have you. And I wanted to first acknowledge you before I read your bio just because it's so meaningful that you're here with us today. So I'm going to introduce you to some of my listeners in case they're not familiar because I really want as many people as possible to watch your first documentary and then the new one that will be coming out. That's what got me on board with a lot of what I do today. So I'm going to go ahead and read your bio because it's so meaningful.

00:02:10 Nelson: All right.

00:02:11 Maya: On the heels of writing and directing the 2015 documentary film, PlantPure Nation, Nelson Campbell founded PlantPure Communities in early 2016. Released in the theaters over 100 cities, the PlantPure Nation film, that's now available on Amazon Prime, highlights the dramatic healing power of plant-based diet and examines the political and economic factors that have suppressed information about these healing benefits while making connections to public policy, medical practice, food deserts, and farming. As founder of PPC,

Nelson continues to drive the strategic direction of the organization. PPC supports an international network of local support and advocacy groups called Pods, now involving more than 100,000 people, and is launching a grassroots and media-driven strategy to engage this network in bringing the plant-based nutrition message into local communities across the US. The strategy will kick off in early 2023 with the release of a sequel to PlantPure Nation called From Food to Freedom, which, of course, you, Nelson, wrote and directed. 

00:03:24 Nelson: You also founded PlantPure foods business and PlantPure sells plant based foods through supermarkets and has made a philanthropic commitment to waive 100% of its profit margin on sales of certain of its products to  under-resourced communities. In addition to your work with these both PlantPure organizations, you have extensive experience in public speaking, mostly focused on issues surrounding plant based nutrition. And you're also touching on public policy, economics, and social concerns. So prior to this involvement with PlantPure Nation, you, Nelson, worked for 25 years as a business entrepreneur. You graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor's degree in Political Science and a Master's in economics. So, wow, I'm so impressed and so excited again to have you here.

00:04:17 Nelson: Well, it's good to be here. I look forward to talking about all these fun topics.

00:04:22 Maya: Yes. So let's start again, because I know that your film, PlantPure Nation, came first and then the communities I learned about the Pods, I want to say in 2018 or so. I became vegan in 2016. So I missed when you were touring the States, if you even want to go as far back as that. But as I got to know other leaders, they said, “Oh yes, he came by in Houston during the promotion of this film.” And I was like, “What?” I missed all of that. So how did your work get started? How did you go from the background in economics and all the work that you've done for 25 years to now moving with this mission and passion of educating people and supporting people to go plant based?

00:05:12 Nelson: Well, I guess the roots of this go back to a couple of things. One, of course, is the influence of my father, Dr. T. Colin Campbell. He did a lot of his pioneering research when I was growing up. And so while I wasn't plant based as a youngster, we started going plant based in my teens because of his research. So that had a profound influence on me, and I've been an advocate of plant based nutrition for most of my life. But also I have had a philosophy that goes back again to my early years. And I don't really know where this came from, but I've always been interested in politics. And when I was a little boy, my parents wouldn't let me

watch TV, but I could watch Walter Cronkite in the evenings. So every evening, I would sit there and watch Walter Cronkite. So I've had a longtime interest in politics, and I guess I just been thinking about this for a while. 

00:06:17 Nelson: And I've always had this foundational belief that to make change in our world, that we have to work in a bottom up way. We have to work in an organic way beginning in our own communities. And I think that's how real change has to happen. It can't just be engineered from the top. And so that's just been a philosophy I've carried with me through my life. So, as you pointed out, I have years of experience as a business entrepreneur, but I was always looking for an opportunity to help promote my dad's message deeper into the mainstream. And so finally, I left a company that I had started and I started working on a

strategy for doing that. And initially it was focused on food, but then progressed and morphed into getting our hands dirty, helping people actually make the shift to a plant based diet. 

00:07:17 Nelson: So we started doing 7 to 10 day immersion programs in a couple of the towns near us. And what we did is we did before and after biometric testing, just like we show in our film, PlantPure Nation. And we gave people food through that period, and we were amazed at how quickly people's health changed. Even my father was surprised. I remember sharing the results with him from the first programs, and he was even surprised at how

quickly the change happened and the magnitude of the change. But one of the things I noticed is that it's one thing to get people excited about the idea in an immersion program like that, where you combine education with the experience of better health, that is the best way to get people motivated to make the change. 

00:08:10 Nelson: But we live in a world that's complicated. Still, even today, there aren't a lot of healthy food options. You can't go down the street to a fast food restaurant and get a whole food plant based, something or other. There's just not a lot of options. And then you may have people in your family who don't want to do this. You go to work and people aren't doing this. You have stresses in life, and stress makes it more difficult. Once a person decides to make the change, it's really important that they have ongoing support from other people who are living the same lifestyle. It's important that people, who are plant based, come together and give each other support. 

00:08:59 Nelson: And that's really where the Pod concept was born. So when we released our film in 2015, PlantPure Nation, as you pointed out, we toured the country with our rough cut. We did something that's typically not done in filmmaking. We took our rough cut on the road and we shared it with people. And then I asked people to come up and tell me what was

wrong with the film at the end. So it had a long line of people. But anyways, we were editing the film on the road, on the fly, literally from the backseat of the car, and eventually we finalized it. But I decided, one thing that was very important to me, was to put at the end of the film a call to action for people who are plant-based to come together, to form these local support groups. And I came up with the term Pod because the ideas were planting seeds of change in local communities. So I thought that was a good name. So we put a call to action at the end of the film. And once we finished the theatrical release, it then went on Netflix. And when it hit Netflix, that's when we got a huge influx of interest in the Pods. And so the Pod network really took off at that point.

00:10:11 Maya: And I really appreciate that call to action because that is what got to me. Like, it touched me at the core of who I am and my own values, Nelson. You see in the documentary, so if anyone has not seen it yet, I'll put a link in the show notes. You have to see it. It's the film that I probably watch at least once, if not twice, every year, ever since I learned about it because it touches me each time. That call to action is so meaningful. After seeing in the film how not only were you doing these jump-starts and seeing results, then you were trying to

create a change at a higher level with food policy and politics that come behind all of the food. It gives us an insight as to why it's so hard to create a systemic change. I've said to Kim and other people that I was a school teacher as well. So I get why, as much as we complain about the food that the children are being served, creating that change is absolutely difficult because there are a lot of strong forces involved in all of that. 

00:11:23 Maya: So in the film, as we're following your journey of showing the change that can happen and trying to make that change, we get it. We realize, “Okay, yeah, it's never going to happen.” I don't want to say never, but change at the top, like you said, is very difficult. And it really is up to us that once we learned about the power of incorporating plant based foods into our lives, the power to heal and how we can help the animals and the planet, then it's up to us to create these Pods. Probably, you, very familiar with other organizations in our field. I don't know anyone else doing what you're doing, Nelson, with Pods, like creating a sense of community.

00:12:04 Nelson: Yeah. So I had a choice, a fork in the road early on, and I remember thinking carefully about this. Because of the film, we had an opportunity to take maybe more of a digital approach, doing things online, trying to reach people that way, and maybe focusing on building up our brand. And of course, there's a lot of money to be made through approaches like that. And I just made a strategic decision that I didn't want to go that route. I really wanted to work on a strategy, a real world strategy for engaging people around this idea. And again, that's what it's going to take, is it's going to take that bottom up, organic, community rooted strategy to make change. We got to get millions of people behind us making this change. And eventually, our government will follow. At a certain point, they do listen to the public. But in the absence of that public pressure, things really aren't going to change. So we do have to mobilize people. So I made a decision to really focus on that, and it's not been easy. It's been a tough road to get here, and it's still in process. 

00:13:37 Maya: Yeah. So I was wondering if you could give us a short summary of The China Study. And the reason I would like my listeners to revisit, if they haven't already read the book, to go back and to actually consider reading the book is because when I met my husband, I stopped eating red meat and pork in college. So I was more of a vegetarian. There must have been something in me that already knew how we were supposed to eat, sort of. But I wasn't able to get him on board until he read The China Study. And so many of us are persuaded and moved and influenced by different resources. And for people who enjoy the science, more specifically, scientists and doctors and people, who really need that evidence to show that some foods can actually contribute to diseases while other foods can help heal us. I was wondering if you can tell us and you're the closest to the author than any of us. So if you could tell us a little bit about The China Study.

00:14:42 Nelson: Okay, so my dad started working on The China Study in the 1980s. And the idea for the study came about when a senior scientist from China came to the US and worked in my dad's lab. And he shared with my father that the late Premier Zhou Enlai had done a massive mortality survey in China looking at causes of death. And the more that my dad looked into it, the more he realized that China, which at that time, was very much a rural society, that China was perhaps the world's last kind of living laboratory, where you could look

at the relationship between diet and disease. At that point in China's evolution, there wasn't a lot of mobility. So families have been living in the same towns for generations and generations, and people weren't moving around. There was also a wide variety in the kinds of food that people were eating from one region to another. So in Mongolia, they were eating much more of an animal based diet. Along the coast, they were eating plant based, but with a lot of fish and also a lot of salt consumption. Other parts of the country that people were mostly plant based.  So it was a lot of variety and a variety as well in the incidence of disease from one region to another. 

00:16:17 Nelson: So in this country, if you see, some area has 1.5 times the rate of cancer of

another area that makes headlines. But in China, the discrepancy in the incidence of disease is far greater, at least at that time, back when my dad did the study. So it really was a perfect living laboratory where you could look at the relationship between food and disease. And so he did a massive study. He looked at over 300 different items of information and they performed enormous numbers of correlations and did deep statistical analysis. And what they found very conclusively is that as populations get closer and closer to a plant based diet, the lower the incidence of all of the chronic diseases. Not one disease or two diseases, but all of the chronic diseases, cancer, heart disease, diabetes. And so it was very compelling data, really

irrefutable. A lot of people have come along and tried to confuse the public and have made criticisms that aren't based in science because there are economic forces that benefit from the status quo. From a science standpoint, that study was the highest caliber.

00:17:54 Maya: It's amazing to be able to go through that information and really see how it can apply to our everyday lives in terms of how we can use the foods to heal. And it's interesting, despite the fact that people may try to rebuttal some of the content. When you look at the larger organizations, like even, for example, this month, February, as I'm promoting heart health awareness, I'm looking at the American Heart Association and what their recommendations. And it starts off with fruits and vegetables and grains and all of that foods low in saturated fat. And you're thinking, “Well, where is the saturated fat found?” It's found in the animal based foods mainly. And so no matter how you look at it, regardless of what people may say about some of the studies, it's still, I think, there's this clear understanding that some of the foods can harm us. The World Health Organization declaring meat and processed meats and deli foods like that to be carcinogenic in many ways. 

 

00:18:41 Maya: So I'm going to put a link as well for that so that people, if you're interested, you can read the book as well. Nelson, I want to know if you want to touch on this, but you talked about some of the difficulty associated with maintaining PlantPure communities, the Pod network. Would you like to talk about that? I know that many of us, for example, the Pods that are many of the leaders is volunteer based, but then you have an entire organization to run as well.

00:19:35 Nelson: Yeah, so there are really two key elements of our strategy. One is our nonprofit, PlantPure Communities, which has supported the Pod network. And the other is an organization called PlantPure, which, as you noted in my introduction. That's our foods business. And I actually started PlantPure first, and I did that because we wanted to have food to support some of the immersion programming that we were doing. I also had a vision for a particular kind of food line, which we weren't able to develop, although today, I think we're

on the brink of being able to do this and I can talk more about this later. In addition to having those food options, I wanted to create a kind of economic engine that we could use to help support the nonprofit and the social mission. Obviously, we've taken investment into PlantPure, and so we're working to create a return for those investors. But we also have the social mission, which I see as win-win. So that's PlantPure. 

00:20:50 Nelson: And then we have the nonprofit. It's been difficult because a lot of the difficulty actually has come from the PlantPure side, the business side. I made a decision early on not to seek investment from institutional funders or other funders whose only interest might be to make money and who maybe might not support our social mission and who typically demand a measure of control in a business. And so I stayed away from that and we've relied on individual investments from people who share our mission, impact investors. The downside of that is you never really have the funding that you need and you're always bumping along payroll to payroll. And so that's been very stressful. 

00:21:45 Nelson: Along with that, we've been launching this nonprofit, PlantPure Communities. And that's been difficult too, in part, for financial reasons. It takes money to do all we do, and that's really a full time effort raising money, even for a nonprofit. So we've just

been stretched real thin over both organizations. But I think we're turning a corner. I think this year is going to be a pivotal year for us and I think there's definitely some light at the end of the tunnel for us. 

00:22:23 Maya: Yes, hopefully. I don't know too much about the business aspect of it, but I mentioned to you that I have that understanding that sometimes certain organizations can hijack a movement. When you start to allow people to support your mission financially, that can happen. And you hear, even of other terms like greenwashing for other causes, that they paint this picture that they're for that mission to support that group. But it's all about selling a product, for example. So is there anything that we can do on our end as, for example, my listeners or as Pod leaders? What do you suppose is the answer? Because it looks like you said you might be turning the corner. So 2023 might be a great year.

00:23:12 Nelson: Well, maybe I can just talk a little bit about what we're planning for this year. As you mentioned early on, we have a new film called From Food to Freedom, and this is a film that we produced through our nonprofit. We're going to be releasing this film online through a release strategy with the Food Revolution Network, which that's Ocean and John Robbins's organization. And we're going to do this in March. They have a vast grassroots footprint, a lot of affiliates and people who are connected to them. And so what we're going to do is we're going to make our film link available and it'll be active to people who register with us for a period of seven days. They'll have seven days to watch the film. And then we're able to reach back out to them to let them know of an educational immersion kit that we created that will enable people to go deeper into the topic of food and nutrition and immunity. And that's how our nonprofit will generate some revenues from that. Plus we'll be making a pitch for donations. And certainly, anyone out there listening who would like to donate to our nonprofit can go to plantpurecommunities.org to see what we're up to and make a donation. We encourage people to consider a monthly donation, $5 or $10 a month. But if enough people do that, it makes a big difference. 

00:24:56 Nelson: So we're going to be releasing that film. And then with that revenue and that financial support, we're going to undertake a strategy that's really going to be media based. We're going to use our media to highlight stories of Pods and people on the frontlines who are making change. We want to find those best practice initiatives that we think others in the network should know about and use our media to highlight that. We also have a cooking show that my wife Kim is involved in and hosting and we're going to be relaunching that soon. We have a concept for another documentary, this one focused on the environment as well. So we're going to be doing a lot of stuff with our media. And we haven't started this yet, but each month, we want to be giving our Pods content that they can use in their meetings. And this will typically be some kind of media that they can use to maybe inspire discussion, educate, encourage Pods to talk about things that they can do in their own community. So we're going to be doing some of that as well. 

00:26:23 Nelson: And then on the PlantPure side, we have a new product line that we have created, that we're quite excited about as part of the original vision that I had. But we didn't really have a co packer that we could work with to do this in the fashion that I wanted to do it. But we now have that. This is going to be a line of meal bases, meal based products, dry packs. And each meal base will be something that could be utilized to create multiple recipes. So eight products will produce over 40 recipes. So we'll also have a cookbook that goes with this accessible online. And I'm very excited about this because this is, in my view, the cheapest way, the most affordable way to get a plant based diet to people. And it's a way of making it easy, but also providing a lot of variety, which is important to people. And philanthropically, what we're going to do is we're going to make this available into underserved communities

through strategies that are developed that are effective at getting the information out. We're going to use this food line to support those strategies, waving our profit margin.

00:27:35 Maya: When Kim was here, she teased us a little bit about that sauces and recipes that will be included. She might have said recipes as well in terms of what you can do with that PlantPure food that you purchase. And that seems so exciting because I said, when you are first making the transition, you want to focus on having tasty foods. And it sounds like you'll meet those demands of people still wanting delicious food. And she highlighted the two key reasons why most people are not able to sustain that change. And one of them was, the food just is not tasty, which was one reason why she was on the show covering PlantPure Comfort Foods, her latest cookbook. The other one was not having support, not having anybody else on board to support that individual making the change. And then that's what the nonprofit portion of what you do does. 

00:28:34 Maya: And I wanted to highlight some of those things, if I can, just so that my listeners can get a better picture. When I first joined as a Pod member, I explored the website, which by the way, has been revamped and it's beautiful. And I went through all the resources because I was new to this lifestyle, Nelson. So I knew I had to learn everything. So resources, everything from what films to watch, what books to read, and printable lists that you had, printable guides, so films to watch, books to read, how to get a speaker to your location, how to do potlucks, oh, my gosh, there's so much. I ended up putting together a little binder, which

eventually helped me to, then support two starting Pods just north of where I'm at, to support them as well. Kind of like mentoring. And that's one component of what the nonprofit does is it gives you all the resource, even restaurant campaigns, how to speak to your local restaurants to ask that they provide an SOS Free, which means salt, oil, and sugar free plant based meal so that you can still support that local restaurant. So you have all these resources on there. What else do we find in the nonprofit side of the business?

00:30:00 Nelson: Well, I'll go back to the website. So you are right. We're in the process of revamping that. And I should clarify for listeners that, if they go there now, it's going to be a little different than what you just explained. What we decided to do is to start from a simpler to really simplify the site initially, and then we can start to add stuff back to it. But the issue, when I really started digging into it because I became more involved in PPC this past fall, I just felt like the site, there was so much there and it was so confusing. And when you went there,

you really didn't get the story of the Pods and PPC. What we did is we just really carved it down and simplified it. But from that place, we'll start to add more and more resources back in. So that's the website. 

00:31:09 Nelson: Oh, something else I wanted to mention as well, the SOS Free reference there. I know there are a lot of folks that do the SOS Free, which is salt, oil, sugar. And generally, we encourage people not to use oil because it's not necessary from a culinary standpoint. You can use foods that have whole fat sources to create those delicious flavors and textures that we love, but we don't really advocate the total elimination of salt and sugar. My father's done a deep dive into that. The same thing with the consumption of nuts and seeds. And there's no science to support the idea that it's necessary to eliminate every crystal of salt or sugar. I mean, sometimes you have people who are outliers, maybe they have a severe food addiction or they're severely hypertensive or something, so you always have those cases. But for most of us, it's not really necessary to do that. So we tend to have maybe a more relaxed culinary philosophy because I think that's essential to building a plant based world, is allowing people to have flavor in their food . 

00:32:28 Maya: I wanted to add that I agree with you in the sense that we don't want our food to be bland. And when I think of the table salt, the salt that we may sprinkle on our foods here when we're cooking at home is very different than the heavy sodium levels that are found in processed foods and restaurants. So I too tell people if they're going to do salt, just use it at the end of the cooking process because the saltiness gets lost if you put it in the beginning of the process, say, you're making a soup or chili or something like that. But most of the sodium is found out there in the packaged foods and in the restaurants. 

00:33:06 Nelson: Exactly, Maya. That's where the real problem is. So we think people should stay away from all of that stuff. But the last part of my answer to your question about what else does PPC do, I should also mention that we've had some interest in the connection of food to climate and to the environment. A lot of people don't know this, but we actually funded a study that was done by a world famous climate researcher, Dr. Atul Jain. And he did a study looking at the contribution of agriculture, plant and animal to greenhouse gas emissions. And he actually has performed the most extensive, exhaustive, credible study ever done on that topic. And he found that the numbers that the UN often cites are actually way off. The contribution of animal agriculture is significantly higher to greenhouse gas emissions than the UN says it is. And the UN historically has been heavily influenced by the global livestock industry, so that's not surprising. But we funded that study, and we have talked to Dr. Jain about a longer term research strategy, which is really exciting. What he would like to do is he would like to look at what would happen if the world went plant based. How much land would

naturally regenerate on its own? Then there's also some marginal lands that could be regenerated with some human intervention. So how much of that could be regenerated and reforested and new vegetation growing. 

00:34:59 Nelson: And then he wants to calculate how much carbon that would draw down over a 20 year period. He also would like to take a look at issues around palm oil production and rice farming. Turns out that rice is a major emitter of methane. But through a tweak in the production process, it's possible to eliminate over 90% of those methane emissions. It has to do with the way the patties are watered. So he wants to look at that. And then he wants to look at marine based strategies. Kelp is the fastest growing plant on the planet, and there may be ways to regenerate our oceans and using kelp to draw down enormous amounts of carbon. So he's done some back of the napkin calculations, and there is definitely a way for us not just to mitigate climate change, but to actually reverse it. Because if you look at the climate over the Eons, we actually are in a cooling cycle now. The base level for our climate is cooling, but of course, we're heating up because of all the greenhouse gas emissions. But if we were to draw down carbon from the atmosphere in sufficient quantities, we could actually reverse climate change. And there is such a solution, but he wants to do that research. So at some point down the road, I'd love to launch a fundraising campaign through our nonprofit to support that.

00:36:31 Maya: Oh, my gosh. That right there would hit at the core of so many people that are now really concerned about our climate. I have heard a little bit about kelp, but what you're referring to these studies oh, my gosh. And I think I remember this work that you were talking about. Was that released during the pandemic? I thought I saw that in one of the newsletters.

00:36:55 Nelson: It was in one of the nature of [crosstalk].

00:36:57 Maya: I'll see if I can link that.

00:36:58 Nelson: Yeah.

00:36:59 Maya: So I'm looking at the website at PPC just to make sure that we don't miss anything. And I know that the grassroots or organization component is a big part of PPC. Do you want to touch on anything else? I see that there's a Pod stream section there.

00:37:18 Nelson: Yeah. So that was a funny name we came up with. That's really going to be our media feed. So I was talking before about doing, ongoing stream of short videos, telling stories from the frontlines, another documentary concept, the cooking show that Kim will host, and whatever else we can come up with, ideas for Pod meetings. All of that will be part of that Pod stream.

00:37:50 Maya: Yes. This is so exciting. And I want to go back again to explain a little bit about what Pods do. So we were just talking about the resources that are available on the website. And then every Pod, throughout the world, can be different depending on who the leaders are, depending on the resources that are available. Some of us have movie screenings because documentaries, as we know, can be very compelling and can sway our loved ones to create change. Some of us bring in speakers. Some of us do potlucks or we do food demos. So everyone has a goal of supporting their local community. And the pandemic also put us on a different platform as well. Many of us went via Zoom. We were supporting our Pods and now have extended to a different type of outreach outside of our community. But I like that you're continuing to focus on supporting Pods because my biggest concern, Nelson, when the pandemic hit was I remember the people that used to attend our events, that were maybe almost going to make that significant change in their lives. Maybe they were just visiting, attending the events, and starting to incorporate more foods. And then suddenly that

support was lost. And that was really agonizing as a Pod leader to not be able to offer the support. So I'm very thankful that this has happened, that we have been able to continue. And I want to also add that it was in the midst of the pandemic that you guys decided to form an organization to support Pod leaders. So an extension of that with the Pod, what you call PAC. Do you want to say anything about that as well?

00:39:42 Nelson: Yeah, so we formed up a group, and initially it was the Pod Advisory Committee, but I think we're going to be changing that to the Pod Action Committee. And these are a group of Pod leaders who have given us important, very helpful input into what we're doing. And it's really in alignment with the philosophy behind the Pod network. Again, I want this to be a very organic, bottom up approach. And so giving Pod leaders a voice like that in PPC is something we wanted to do, and it's been very helpful. 

00:40:31 Maya: I know that one of the things that we've learned, as we're trying to figure out how to support Pod leaders, is teaching them those technical skills of how to take their Pod online, since many people might have lost their groups or they're not meeting in person as much. I know I had a facility that I partnered with, which was my local library. And suddenly, they're not interested anymore in making their space available. So there are so many different ways that we can get creative in supporting our communities, like having picnics or meeting

at a park or meeting in another facility, that is willing to partner with us. So I like the idea that you still want to keep it going, that you still want to support the Pod network and keep it alive. And this Pod stream sounds exciting. You're partnering with the Robbins on a platform that will give you great exposure. It's exciting. And so you've talked about the film already, From Food to Freedom, but do you want to tell us what's your overall goal? What do you hope to accomplish with this film?

00:41:38 Nelson: So I'll just say a little about the film and how it came into being and what we're trying to do with it. So originally, I had an idea for a film concept that involved a project that we were going to be doing in New York, New York City. We had a partner up there, a major physician organization, and we were talking to them about launching a campaign through all their physician network across the city of New York, especially focusing on the underserved areas. And so we got some funding from them to do that and to film it. And then I won't go into the details or the exact reasons why. But basically due to internal politics, we'll say on their side, it all fell through. But the initial scene that we were going to film to get into that expanded story involved an immersion program in Greensboro, North Carolina. We had envisioned a 10 day live in immersion program. And so we actually went ahead and filmed that. And then when the rest of the project fell through, we thought about it and we realized, “You know what, we can still make a movie from using the footage that we got at that live in immersion.” And I realized as well that we could make it about more than just showing the

healing power of plants, which that in and of itself is a dramatic story and it will be, especially for people who are unfamiliar with plant based. But there are bigger ideas as well that I realized, that we could connect this to around the pandemic, around immunity, chronic disease. 

00:43:34 Nelson: And so what we do is we tell the story of this 10 day immersion involving a group of six people with type two diabetes, all taking insulin. And we hear their stories, and we follow them as they're going through this live in immersion, which involves daily meals so

that we fed them for 10 days. And Kim was a big part of that, and our chef friend, Fernando Peralta. We also had a physician on site, Dr. Laurie Marbas. The participants all had monitors, Libre monitors so that she could see their glucose levels in real time. And she was constantly taking blood pressure readings and talking to them. And we provided some education as well. And so we see their stories. We go through the immersion. We start to see some dramatic things happen. I had always wanted to do a live in immersion like that, by the way. That was highly controlled and working with a group of people, like people with advanced type two

diabetes, where we could demonstrate a maximum impact. 

00:44:45 Nelson: But so anyways, we see some dramatic things happen. And then as we go through that story, it creates some launching off points for us to digress into larger ideas and topics like the connection of food to chronic disease, to immunity and to the pandemic. And

so we make some very provocative points, hard hitting points, but we do this in a way that is

politically neutral. So this is not a partisan film. You can't even read into it any sort of partisan perspective. We also stay away from the controversial topics of masking and vaccinations and social distance. We don't get into any of that. Our film is about food and immunity and the failure of our authorities in positions of power to explain this vital connection to the public. Because over 90% of the people who unfortunately died of COVID, they had these preexisting conditions, that were mostly chronic conditions, that are lifestyle related. Up to 40% of the people in this country, who died of COVID, had type two diabetes, which can resolve within

days. But there was no mention of this during the pandemic. 

00:46:13 Nelson: So anyways, we ended up making a whole film out of the immersion program, and it's doing quite well so far. We've entered it into some film festivals, and

we've already gotten honors and four or five festivals, so it's winning awards. And as I said before, we want to release this in a way that will kickstart our Pod network again, help expand it and generate revenues into PlantPure communities. And then once we do the online release, we'll find a home for it, hopefully on Netflix or Amazon.

00:46:55 Maya: Oh, my goodness. Wow. Chills again. Like the whole excitement again, almost like PlantPure Nation when it came out. So when I watched PlantPure Nation, I was excited about those jumpstarts. And I know that I've had this desire to also be part of something like that. These kind of things, can we replicate them? I don't know. I guess you would need a physician maybe to track the biometrics. It's a big deal. It's not easy to do, otherwise, we would all be doing them. But what would you advise? Is this something that we can learn to do in our communities? To do like a 7 day or a 10 day jumpstart?

00:47:36 Nelson: Yeah, so there are some elements that are really important to making an experience like that successful. One is of course the education, which that's pretty easy to deliver. And we, in fact, have a 10 day immersion educational program that we can make available through our nonprofit. But also it's the food. People have to be able to eat plant based for 10 days, even if they don't know how to make the food. You really can't just

give people recipes for 10 days. A lot of people aren't going to comply if they have to do everything from scratch. In the past, through our foods business, we've done a lot of frozen foods, which we now supply into supermarkets, but that's really not good for an immersion either. Who wants to eat just frozen foods for 10 days? You can't do it. 

00:48:28 Nelson: So this new product line that we're creating really will be ideal for supporting an immersion experience. And as I said, this is a concept we've had for a long time. We made a half hearted attempt in this direction with the prior dry pack line that we had, but we didn't have a co packer willing to work with us. And they tied our hands with the ingredients that we could, so we really couldn't do our concept. But this new food line will make it easy for people to live plant based for 10 days so that will be out there. The third piece, though, that's really important is that medical piece. And this is really important, especially if someone's taking diabetic medication or blood pressure medication, those two in particular. The body heals so fast that you have to be paying attention. And oftentimes those medications need to be reduced in real time as the body's healing or people can have problems because then the medications become toxic, which at their root, they really are toxic. All drugs are toxic to some degree. 

00:49:47 Nelson: And so as you heal, you have to pay attention. So that third piece is a little more problematic, although it doesn't mean that people still can't do this. It's just if you have diabetes or you have hypertension and you're taking those drugs, you should let your physician know that you're doing this and then keep a close eye on what's happening with your body.

00:50:13 Maya: Yeah, I love that idea of some physicians refer to that as deprescribing medication, which I think would be a goal that most people would have, is not to be sentenced to medication for the rest of their lives, but to see that as you're bringing in the foods that are healing. You're safely coming off the medication that you no longer are relying on. So that means you're improving your quality of life. So that's so exciting to hear. I can't wait to see this film. And then finally, I have a question out of curiosity. You're a filmmaker now. Do you have training in this? How did you figure out how to do this? Because you have a great eye for making compelling content, and it looks like with Pod stream and the short films that you want

to do from this point on, that you really have a passion and a gift for that.

00:51:09 Nelson: Well, thank you for those comments, but I love to write. And since I've been a little kid, I've been writing things, everything from poetry to essays to different things. So I love to write and always have love to write. And I discovered that filmmaking, at its core, it's a process of writing. When I did PlantPure Nation early on, we were really making a lot of mistakes and bungling things for different reasons. And part way through the process, I reached out to a person who has now become one of my best friends, John Corry, who

produced Forks Over Knives. And John is still working with me today. We're very good friends. And John did something amazing. So he is a lifetime filmmaker. And he came into our project and he talked to me and says, “You tried to figure out what I was trying to say and the story that I was trying to drive.” And so I explained all this. And then he set about to teach me filmmaking. And so he really explained the process of writing, and he explained so much to me. And then he did something miraculous because he doesn't have a big ego. He could have taken over the project , but he didn't. He stepped back, and he encouraged me to write the film the way that I wanted and drive the story the way that I wanted. 

00:52:58 Nelson: So I used what I learned from him to do all of that. And then this last film, we've had even more experience, including with smaller videos in between the first two movies. And so the other thing that's been really helpful to me as a filmmaker and it's true in every aspect of life, is that you learn so much more if you don't have an ego, if you just stay

humble and you open yourself up. And that's why when we did PlantPure Nation, we took our rough cut on tour. No one ever does that because you only want to show your best cut. But we took our rough cuts. We opened ourselves up to criticism. When you open yourself up and you just have a curious attitude about things, you learn so much more. And so I've just gone through a learning process the past few years. In the final analysis, I figured out really that filmmaking is about writing. It's about storytelling. But when you have to envision the story, you have to go out and you get all that footage. But you end up with hours and hours and hours of footage. And what you have to do to create the story is you have to go find those special moments when the words that are spoken are the words that you want to put into the film. All of that library of footage is like your dictionary. It's all your raw material. It's your currency. 

00:54:38 Nelson: And that's the language that you can use to write your story. But it's still a process of writing. The story has to be compelling. One piece has to flow to another piece to another piece. You have to work your way up to points where you have the credibility with the audience to say more provocative things. But at its core, it's a process of writing. So I just figured that out because I like to write. It turns out I love to make films.

00:55:16 Maya: I enjoy reading. So I have always said that even with interviews, I see an individual, like a book. I have the ability to read a great book when I learn about someone's life, what they've endured, what they've gone through. I like stories that inspire me. I guess you can say that. And that's why, in many ways, documentaries like PlantPure Nation, Forks Over Knives are also inspirational because they give you hope. They really touch at the core of those things like I said, our values, the things that are important to us, which is having love and support and being healthy. I think everyone wants to feel good physically in terms of health.

So I'm very excited about that. And the way that this airs depends. I think you said I wasn't on board when your first film. I wasn't vegan yet when it first came out, and that was at theaters, right, PlantPure Nation?

00:56:16 Nelson: It was played in theaters.

00:56:18 Maya: And this one will be released, okay.

00:56:20 Nelson: Yeah, played in theaters and about over 100 different communities. This one won't be in theaters. It's going to be online, and then it's going to be on a streaming platform.

00:56:32 Maya: You're going to have to be creative about how we do this one. When Game Changers was set to come out in select theaters, not everywhere, I went to my local theater and I spoke with the manager. And I said, “If I can bring a crowd, would you be willing to show it in another theater? How do you say, like in another room, at the same place, back to back?” And he said, “Yes.” And then I organized a way that I can use a portion of the theater as an event, for an event. And so what I did is I contacted local Game Changers people in my

community that are dietitians and athletes, that are all on board and healthy. And I had a table. I mean, I just went all out and I brought a crowd to watch one of the films and provided resources as other people were coming for the second film, for the second showing, is what I should say. I created an entire event around that with the support of the theater manager. And it was a way of saying, yes, you have these people that are being shown in the film and you're going to be motivated. But guess what? We have support here in our community as well. And these are local people that can support you. And so with every film that comes out, I want to do something with yours. I don't know. I'm going to have to be creative because it's all online now, so yeah, maybe some sort of showing. I don't know.

00:58:02 Nelson: Yeah, I'm glad that you mentioned that, Maya, because actually, we do want our Pods and anyone really who wants to show it in a local theater and can get the theater to do it, we'll make available what the theater needs to show the film. So, yes. So we do want to do that. Yeah.

00:58:24 Maya: Oh, my God, I just got chills. Like thank you. I'm so glad I brought it up because we need that. We need this so much in our theaters. And that gives us a place to meet, to provide resources, to talk about the Pod. Oh, my gosh. I could see this as a collaboration between Pod leaders as well, locally. Oh, my gosh, thank you. All right, is there anything that I forgot to ask? Anything else that you'd like to share? 

00:58:52 Nelson: Well, maybe two things. One is I want to thank you for the work that you're doing and all the passion that you have for this idea and your contributions to the Pod network and the PAC, which we talked about earlier. 

00:59:08 Maya: Thank you. 

00:59:08 Nelson: And so I want to thank you for that. And it's people like you that put wind in my sails because I don't think that any of this is about me or any one person in particular. It's about all of us. And it's, how do we empower ourselves together to make this change happen in communities across the country. And you're just a perfect example of a person who gets excited and is making things happen. And then I also just want to put a plug in for my wife, Kim. She did publish a third cookbook, which I can personally attest is the best of her

cookbooks. It's called Plant Pure Comfort on Amazon. And she's been doing this for a while. She's gotten really good at it. And I have the job of cleaning up and also taste testing, which is a hard job. 

01:00:08 Maya: You're so lucky, yeah.

01:00:09 Nelson: Everything I taste is so good. And also, she's been instrumental in creating this new product line I mentioned a while back, too . So anyways, I just wanted to give a shout out to her and encourage people to check out her cookbook, Plant Pure Comfort.

01:00:25 Maya: Yes, we loved having her on the show. And I also want to add that you're the camera person. You're the technical support behind the camera when she goes live, when both of you go live and do the cooking show, which I was watching initially. You started that during the pandemic and you just recently resumed again. And it's so much fun to watch her because I messaged her and said, “I'm going to do that recipe for sure.” So much of her food is tasty. Like you said, flavor is still so important. And I'm glad that you mentioned that you don't shy away from salt or sugar because then people are just going to completely feel deprived if their food is not flavor.

01:01:03 Nelson: Yeah, and what you said is right too, Maya. It's about salting your food more at the end to get that. You don't need to use a lot of salt. But we are restarting her show. It's going to be professionally produced, like her Plant Pure Kitchen Live show was. So we have a new kitchen that we got fixed up for this purpose, and we've done a couple of trial runs. But next week we're going to be filming the first shows that we end up releasing. So these are going to be with professional cameras and lighting and everything, so it'll look great for people. And I'm not going to be a [real camera from this one. To be a real camera person.]

01:01:52 Maya: Oh, my God.

01:01:52 Nelson: Yeah.

01:01:53 Maya: I'm so excited. I have one more idea. Is there a potential retreat for us in the future? And if we paid for the retreat, that could help support the nonprofit?

01:02:05 Nelson: Yeah, so really good question, Maya. First, I should mention that we have considered starting up a recurring live in immersion program here in North Carolina for folks. And we also have thought as well that it would be nice to have something specifically for Pod leaders. So in answer to your question, I would love to do something like that. So it's just a question of us getting the resources to have the team that we need to do these things. 

01:02:45 Maya: That's important. 

01:02:46 Nelson: If we have the funding and the ability to do so, I would love to do that. We need to be meeting face to face. There is a place for online approaches, and your podcast is a perfect example. You're reaching a lot of people. You're having a great impact. So there's a place. It's not an either/or. It's an and. We can't forget about the in person part of our world. We went through a tough pandemic, but it's time for us to come back together again in our communities and meet face to face and build community.

01:03:24 Maya: Yeah. That's why conferences in our world are so significant. Like the recent one I went to, Lifestyle Medicine in Orlando. You meet people that you've known, that you first initially met online and then you see them face to face. And it's like family. It's like you're coming together for a family reunion and it feels so good and it's so meaningful. And I don't care how much it costs, I'm going to go every year because it's how I grow as an individual, along with all the other things, the conference lectures and all of that matters too. But I think

the community is like the number one thing for me. 

01:03:59 Nelson: Yeah.

01:04:00 Maya: For sure.

01:04:01 Nelson: It is. We all need it. 

01:04:02 Maya: And that's why your message, that's right. And that's what got me on board initially. And so I'm hoping. I encourage my listeners to watch the first film, be ready for the second one, and see what you can do to create community in your own neighborhood, in your own area and stand up and be a grassroots leader in many ways. So are there any other links you'd like to share with us?

01:04:27 Nelson: I guess the main link would be to go to plantpurecommunities.org and also there, you can learn about the film. And there's a place, where a button that you can click, to watch the film and that'll put you on an email list. So when we do release the live link, you can get that link. And if you don't catch it, then it will be on a streaming platform. Actually, probably, it's going to be on Amazon, Amazon Prime, which is where PlantPure Nation is currently.

01:04:58 Maya: Oh, wonderful. Nelson, it's been a pleasure having you on the show. I want to thank you for your hard work, for your continued dedication in all that you're doing to support the world, the planet. But again, we're starting from a grassroots level, so thank you again for being here today with us.

01:05:16 Nelson: All right. Thank you, Maya. Thanks for having me.

01:05:22 Maya: You've been listening to the Healthy Lifestyle Solutions podcast with your host, Maya Acosta. If you've enjoyed this podcast, do us a favor and share with one friend who can benefit from this episode. Feel free to leave us an honest review on Apple podcast, that helps us to spread our message. Thanks for listening.

Nelson CampbellProfile Photo

Nelson Campbell

On the heels of writing and directing the 2015 documentary film PlantPure Nation, Nelson Campbell founded PlantPure Communities (PPC) in early 2016. Released in theaters in over 100 cities, the PlantPure Nation film (now on Amazon Prime) highlights the dramatic healing power of a plant-based diet and examines the political and economic factors that have suppressed information about these healing benefits, while making connections to public policy, medical practice, food deserts, and farming.

As founder of PPC, Nelson continues to drive the strategic direction of the organization. PPC supports an international network of local support and advocacy groups called “Pods,” now involving more than 100,000 people, and is launching a grassroots and media-driven strategy to engage this network in bringing the plant-based nutrition message into local communities across the US. This strategy will be kicked off in early 2023 with the release of a sequel to PlantPure Nation called From Food to Freedom, which Nelson wrote and directed.

Nelson also founded the PlantPure foods business. PlantPure sells plant-based foods through supermarkets and has made a philanthropic commitment to waive 100% of its profit margin on sales of certain of its products in under-resourced communities.

In addition to his work with both PlantPure organizations, Nelson has extensive experience in public speaking, mostly focused on issues surrounding plant-based nutrition, but also touching on public policy, economics, and social concerns.

Prior to his involvement with PlantPure Nation, Nelson worked for 25 years as a business entrepreneur. He graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and a master’s degree in Economics.