Capitol Hill Lunch and Learn Event Features a Discussion with Health and Nutrition Experts Dr. Neal Barnard, Kathy Freston, Marilu Henner, and James Costa
WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee – a nonprofit of more than 10,000 concerned doctors – and the Congressional Vegetarian Staff Association (“Veggie Caucus”) brought four of the country’s leading voices on health and nutrition to Capitol Hill for a fresh look at nutrition policy in America. Renowned health advocates and best-selling authors Kathy Freston and Marilu Henner discussed the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and their impacts on health and nutrition on a panel led by Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D. James Costa, a health advocate and documentary filmmaker, also weighed in on school lunches.
The four speakers highlighted their personal and professional experiences with public health before diving into a lively and informative discussion on the outcome of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s public meetings, the second of which concluded the day before the event. These meetings help to shape federal nutrition recommendations and, of course, the policies based on this advice. Because it includes oral testimony from a broad variety of stakeholders, the meeting often generates intense controversy and murky conclusions. Relying on their nutrition expertise, the speakers identified the meetings’ most important takeaways and outlined a clear path to improved health in the United States.“The Dietary Guidelines determine what Americans eat—they are the blueprint for school lunches, WIC, and every other nutrition program—and they play a pivotal role in America’s health,” says Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D. “Bad diets now cause seven out of 10 deaths in the United States; improving the Dietary Guidelines could significantly lower this toll.”
Barnard, Freston, Henner, and Costa also offered guidelines and nutrition tips to help Hill staffers keep their healthy resolutions throughout the New Year. Attendees enjoyed a raw vegan lunch from Ape Man Foods, which included walnut “meat” tacos served on an apple and flaxseed tortilla with cashew nacho cheese, chopped roma tomatoes, white onion, and cilantro. Also included were cupcakes from the award-winning vegan bakery Sticky Fingers.
All members of Congress and their staff, health care professionals, and laypersons interested in promoting good health through personal steps and sound federal policy were encouraged to attend.
About the Speakers
Neal Barnard, M.D.
Neal Barnard, M.D., is an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C. He has led numerous clinical trials investigating the effects of diet on diabetes, body weight, and chronic pain. Dr. Barnard has authored dozens of scientific publications as well as 15 books for lay readers. As president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr. Barnard leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition, and higher ethical standards in research. He has hosted three PBS television programs on nutrition and health and is frequently called on by news programs to discuss issues related to nutrition and research.
With the energy of a teenager, the wisdom of a sage, and the memory of a superhero, Marilu Henner has deservedly earned the nickname “Perpetual Motion.” Along with starring in more than 30 films, six Broadway shows, and two hit classic sitcoms, the five-time Golden Globe nominee is also a New York Times best-selling author of nine books on health, parenting, memory, and lifestyle improvement. Her books, including the recent best-seller Total Memory Makeover, as well as Total Health Makeover, The 30-Day Total Health Makeover, and others have changed the lives of millions in her quest to make the world a healthier place.
Kathy Freston is a New York Times best-selling author who concentrates on healthy living and conscious eating. Her books include THE LEAN: A Revolutionary (and Simple!) 30-Day Plan for Healthy, Lasting Weight Loss; Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World; Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness; and others. Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Dean Ornish penned the introductions for two of her books, and Freston has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Ellen, The Dr. Oz Show, The View, Good Morning America, Charlie Rose, The Martha Stewart Show, Extra, and also on OWN. Her work has been featured notably in Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, Self, W, and Fitness. She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.
James Costa is director/producer of the documentary Lunch Hour, a film about America's National School Lunch Program, childhood obesity, and our addiction to unhealthy foods. He is also Chairman of the Board for the Hunts Point Alliance for Children and a board member of the International Documentary Association.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.