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  2. Feb 20, 2024

Caring for Her Delaware Community With a Plant-Based Diet

Diane Calloway

Diane Callaway first began her journey toward a plant-based diet after she lost her mother, who was in her early 50s, to breast cancer. Shortly after, her father passed away from heart disease. Then two of her cousins were diagnosed with prostate cancer and another with breast cancer.

“I thought, ‘Something has to change, because something is not right here. There has to be something that connects the dots,’” recalls Callaway, a Delaware-based Food for Life instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “Then I began to realize that all of our family gatherings were heavy in meat.”

To learn more about the connection between diet and disease, she and her husband soon began taking a Food for Life plant-based nutrition and cooking class in Washington, D.C., taught by Physicians Committee President Neal Barnard, MD.

“We came from Delaware to D.C. every day and sat in the classes and were blown away by what we learned about the health benefits of plant-based diet,” says Callaway. “I knew we needed to make a change after those classes.”

After completing the classes, she told her family members about what she had learned and encouraged everyone to make dietary changes to help prevent losing another family member to cancer, heart disease, or other diet-related diseases.

“They began to see the foods I was buying at the store and what was on our table when we had family reunions,” says Callaway, adding that some of them gave it a try.

She soon took the training to become a Food for Life instructor herself and began teaching free classes in her community, including at the department of recreation, department of transportation, police department, fire department, local universities, community colleges, and her church.

“I am committed to getting people to understand that this is doable. It worked for me. It worked for my family. It worked for my cousins. They're still alive. They have grandchildren now,” she says, adding that she asks her class participants to share some of what they’ve learned about a plant-based diet with at least 10 people within 60 days of finishing the class to help spread the message.

In 2011, Callaway founded the organization Life Is Delicious, which provides nutrition education, has community events focused on the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet, and works in underserved, marginalized Black and Brown communities.

Ongoing community outreach includes an annual vegan potluck in January; vegan food distribution to the homeless community on weekends in the spring and summer where she serves up to 800 people with food she provides; the annual Delaware VegFest, which takes place Sept. 28 this year and will feature vegan food, presentations by local lifestyle physicians, demonstrations, performances, and a Let’s Beat Breast Cancer rally.

This March, Callaway, along with her church, plan to take a truck loaded with fruits and vegetables to distribute in a nearby underserved community in Southern New Jersey, where she will also have a table where she will share information on a whole food, plant-based diet.

“I've been out on the front line for over a decade sharing the healthy, positive, hopeful message about how a plant-based diet can save your life, and we've made progress, but there’s so much more to be done,” adds Calloway.

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