Rivers in Mt. Airy flowing towards healthier diet

by Len Lear
Posted 7/2/21

It is no secret that more and more restaurants, grocery stores and supermarkets are offering plant-based options to meat and dairy foods. One Mt. Airy activist who is a part of this food revolution …

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Rivers in Mt. Airy flowing towards healthier diet

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It is no secret that more and more restaurants, grocery stores and supermarkets are offering plant-based options to meat and dairy foods. One Mt. Airy activist who is a part of this food revolution is Elise Rivers, 55, owner of the Northwest Center for Food As Medicine, a division of Community Acupuncture of Mt. Airy. Rivers has just founded Plant-Based Mt. Airy (PBMA), “a collection of people and their businesses supporting a new way of life, defined as offering food or services that create a healthy connection between humans, food and/or nature, that in turn fosters the well-being of ourselves, others and the planet.”

Exactly how many Americans are following a vegetarian or vegan diet? According to a 2019 Gallup poll, about 5% of U.S. adults consider themselves to be vegetarians. If you add in the children who are vegetarian in the country, according to the poll, between 5% and 10% of all people in the U.S. could be vegetarian or vegan. And in Northwest Philadelphia, the number is most likely higher.

“Mt Airy is known as one of the most progressive and health conscious neighborhoods in the city,” said Rivers. “Along with our many alternative healers, a growing number of our restaurants offer plant-based options, and some are now exclusively plant-based. In our brochure, we have grouped eateries, healing centers and veg-friendly businesses to help residents find and experience how easy it is to live a plant-based lifestyle here in our community.”

PBMA's website (pbma.info) has an online, interactive map with directions, websites and menus of local restaurants that offer plant-based options. There also have coupons offering dollars off for plant-based foods at some area restaurants. They have a brochure with information on the plant-based lifestyle that has been distributed to local restaurants and other businesses. “Wherever I put them,” said Rivers, “they are quickly taken. And there has been a lot of attention on our Facebook page. People really want this information.”

PBMA is a resource for learning how plant-based eating has been proven to reverse heart disease, pre-diabetes, Type 2 diabetes and sustainable weight loss. “I'm proud to say I have patients thanking me for not only saving their life but also releasing them from a lifetime of medications and doctor's visits, which would never address the cause of their chronic disease,” said Rivers.

Although arguments for a plant-based diet may not seem controversial, an article by Rivers in the May issue of The Shuttle, the Weavers Way monthly publication, prompted a letter from a Sammy Lipson stating in part: ” … the disdain that Elise harbors toward fat people in disturbing. A plant-based diet doesn't 'cure' fatness. There are fat vegans. There are healthy fat people … nobody has a moral imperative to be healthy … ”

“When you put yourself out there, you might get that kind of pushback,” said Rivers in our interview. “That is OK. I think Sammy misunderstood my point. I got some very favorable feedback as well.”

Rivers, who prefers the term “nutritarian” to vegan, has been a vegan since 2013. She concedes that while it is certainly a good thing that vegetarian and vegan options are much more common in area restaurants and food stores than they used to be, processed vegan foods made by giant corporations are not necessarily the healthiest foods available. For example, vegan cheese is high in fat and salt and low in nutrients. On the other hand, it is free of hormones, cholesterol and animal suffering.

“The vegan industry knows,” said Rivers, “that Americans are used to lots of flavor, mouthfeel and convenience, so they have to deliver those things. Beyond Burgers are not optimal, for example, because they add coconut oil, which is not great for the heart, but they are still much better for the planet and for the animals.”

In our area, Rivers highly recommends these five restaurants: Bacio in Erdenheim (“I will ask Jay to make anything vegan, and he does an amazing job.”), All the Way Live in Chestnut Hill and Germantown (“They are 100 percent plant-based.”), Fino's Pizza (“Half of Bob's menu is vegan; he has gone the extra mile.”), Mi Puebla (“an extensive vegan menu, including vegan burritos.”) and Linda's Vegetarian Village (“Great smoothies and veggie burgers”).

For more information, visit pbma.info. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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