Hello! My name is Nancy Zhang, and I’m a senior in high school currently interning at Balanced. I’m passionate about nutrition and improving food systems to create a more equitable and sustainable future.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Reducetarian Summit in Denver with Balanced. I was beyond excited to go—this was my first time attending a conference dedicated to promoting and welcoming plant-forward diets.
But first, you may be wondering what a reducetarian diet is? You’ve likely heard of vegetarian diets, but reducetarian isn’t as mainstream of a term yet. Simply put, the movement seeks to unite vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters in a common goal: reducing meat and dairy consumption to better our health, the environment, and animal welfare.
As an advocate who’s been in the plant-based advocacy space for the past few years, I was extremely grateful to find a gathering that emphasized a more pragmatic approach to plant-based lifestyles.
In the past, I’ve found some in the vegan community can take an “all-or-nothing” mentality which can result in hesitancy for those who are plant-curious from learning more about the benefits of plant-based or plant-forward diets.
Attending my first group networking session, it was inspiring to hear all of the different perspectives everyone contributed. I met incredible advocates working on global veg* documentaries, founding startups to help businesses be more sustainable, as well as people who just wanted to learn more about topics on health and factory farming.
Throughout the conference, I attended a variety of speaker sessions from mass-producing alternative proteins to hearing perspectives from local farmers. I especially loved the emphasis on factory farming that the conference took—it encompassed a lot of the reasons why people start eating plant-based: health (antibiotics, processed meats), environment (carbon emissions, pollutants), and animal welfare (living conditions).
Additionally, I had the opportunity to table with Balanced—I was super excited to spread our mission of cultivating healthier menus and engage more people in our work (as well as pass out the best merch and stickers). I especially loved explaining the amazing work Balanced has helped me accomplish in my own community.
Sharing my experiences hosting educational events and adding a new plant-based grill to my school cafeteria really demonstrated the importance of uplifting youth in creating institutional change—a need that is currently highly necessary and overlooked in this movement.
Though the Reducetarian Summit has taken important steps to involve more youth in their mission (through their fellowship program for NYC undergrads), I didn’t meet any other students who were there independently. Within this movement aiming to create a more sustainable and healthful future, I’ve found that youth voices are underrepresented; this should be the opposite when current youth will be most affected by climate change & our food systems in the future. As the conference grows, I’d love to see more outreach with youth involvement!
Overall, the Reducetarian Summit was fantastic—everything from the quality of the connections I made to the amazing presentations (and the delicious plant-based meals). I highly encourage all who are plant-curious/already plant-based (especially youth) to attend their summit next year!
You can learn more about the work of the Reducetarian Foundation and next year's Summit ot the Reducetarian Foundation's website.