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June 23, 2020

Dear Governor Cuomo:

We are a collective of grassroots leaders from all corners of New York State who are committed to dramatically improving public health with evidence-based nutrition. We thank you for your leadership through the COVID-19 pandemic, and want to bring to your attention a key solution that should be added to your larger strategy. A whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet has the potential power to defend against the worst effects of COVID-19 by enhancing immunity and, simultaneously, reducing comorbidity factors. We are asking you to add a nutrition strategy to New York’s toolbox to help us recover from this pandemic and to similarly protect against its recurrence and the introduction of new viruses.

A data-driven nutrition strategy will help keep our economy open by keeping the curve of hospitalizations bent, even if the COVID-19 infection continues to spread. While consumption of a WFPB diet doesn’t mean we won’t get infected by the virus, it should protect against the worst effects of COVID-19, thereby minimizing the risks of hospitalizations and fatalities for those who do get infected.

We invite your leadership and stand ready to work with you in getting New Yorkers to embrace the tremendous potential of nutrition to fight the pandemic. As more fully described in Part 1 & Part 2 commentaries by biochemist/nutrition researcher and Cornell professor Dr. T. Colin Campbell, mortality data shows that over 90% of the people who have died from COVID-19 suffered from pre-existing medical conditions, mostly arising from a lifetime of the same ill-fated nutrition that reduces immunity. (It’s worth noting that there is a proliferation of doctors and health and environmental groups committed to eating whole plant foods, who ‘stand on the shoulders’ of Dr. Campbell’s nutrition research). Evidence suggests that switching to a healthy plant-based diet would not only decrease chronic disease risk, and sometimes reverse these conditions, but also increase production of COVID-19 antibodies. And, there is ample information showing that this nutritional effect may begin in a matter of days, enough time for people not yet infected to strengthen their immune systems. 

This is an opportunity to give hope to New Yorkers who desperately want to reduce their risks. By addressing diet-related comorbidities while also strengthening immunity, a nutrition strategy would reduce strain on our hospital system and thereby improve our ability to keep the economy open, even if the rate of infection grows. It will also position New Yorkers to fight future pandemics.

Here are our three specific requests:

  • During press briefings, speak about the diet-related comorbidities (degenerative diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, hypertension) that increase COVID-19 hospitalization and fatality risk for New Yorkers generally, and which disproportionately impact communities of color and other underserved neighborhoods.
  • Speak about the power of a whole food, plant-based diet (vegetables, fruits, whole grain cereals, legumes and nuts) to defend against the worst effects of COVID-19.
  • Publicly pledge to eat these foods for 10 days (we will support you! There is a Global 10-day Jumpstart kicking off soon), thereby encouraging others to take these crucial first steps toward healing and doing their part to  ‘Keep the Curve Bent’ so our economy can stay open! 

New Yorkers are burdened by their experience with chronic illness, traumatized by the way their parents are dying without attending family members and friends, suffering from their medications’ side effects, and now deeply afraid of COVID-19. We call on you today to embrace a nutrition strategy to help New Yorkers leave their comorbidities of COVID-19 in the dust with plant-based nutrition and keep the economy open!

Thank you,

Leaders of the NY-based groups (aka Pods) that participate in the global PlantPure Communities Pod Network*

  • Seneca Falls: Peg Haust-Arliss, Seneca Falls Pod
  • Brooklyn: Bonnie Hepler, RN, PPMNY Brooklyn Pod
  • Manlius, Onondaga County: Kathy Fortner, Central NY Whole Food Plant Based Health and Wellness Community Pod.
  • Long Island: Mitchell Castell, Long Island Plant Powered Metro NY Pod
  • Staten Island: Natasha Spearman-Isip of the Staten Island Sprouts Pod
  • Ithaca: Nevin Sabet-Swingle, Whole Food Plant Based Tompkins County Pod
  • Queens: Enrica Sacca, Plant Powered Metro NY Queens Pod & Mare Gomez-Bolanos, PPMNY Latinx Community organizer 
  • Ossining: Dhruv Gupta from the Green Thumbs Hudson Valley Pod
  • Bronx: Rogier F. van Vlissingen, Bronx Pod
  • Westchester: Jeanne Schumacher, Plant Based Westchester Pod
  • Frewsburg: Livi Laska and Deborah Chielli, Plant Powered Chautauqua County Pod
  • Manhattan: Lianna Levine Reisner & Lynn Diamond, Plant Powered Metro New York Pod

*The PlantPure Communities (PPC) Pod Network is the backbone of a grassroots movement of people participating in independent local groups, called “Pods” who promote the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet. To date, more than 250,000 people participate in the PPC Pod Network in 29 countries. PPC is a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

Contact PPC Executive Director Jody Kass at or 704-412-4506 x101 with questions. 

Cc: Dr. Howard Zucker, NYS Health Commissioner

Dr. Jim Malatras, Empire State College President

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