It’s been three years since the last Eat Drink and Disrupt conference in Greenville, but founder Dawn Hilton-Williams has by no means been silent. On the contrary, the creator of the Eat, Drink Disrupt Summit and owner of Herban-Eats has grown louder in her plea and urgency for plant-based eating and for using it as a tool to combat food apartheid.
This month, Hilton-Williams brings her conference back and in so doing, brings her message to a more public forum. The Eat Drink and Disrupt conference will take place on April 30 at ONE Center. The event weaves food, health education, farming and a discussion about effectively dismantling food and health disparities in the U.S.
The summit features a BIPOC-owned and vegan marketplace, along with discussions on how to prevent and reverse Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, and a panel discussion on the socioeconomics of food apartheid.
“I’m really trying to tie the ribbon,” said Hilton-Williams, who has worked in the food justice space for nearly a decade.
It’s a lot to fit into one day, which is why Hilton-Williams calls it a piece of the work. Through Herban-Eats and her non-profit, Power of Giving, Hilton-Williams holds free cooking demos and plant-based how-to seminars year-round, focusing on reaching into BIPOC communities, those that are most impacted by chronic disease.
“I talk about food apartheid because it’s not just building a grocery store there,” Hilton-Williams said. “It’s important to have a grocery store there but you have to couple it with education, I call it vegucation.
And you have to understand the underlying inequities that have led to food insecurity, she says.
“Deserts are natural, these are manmade,” Hilton-Williams said. “It’s not just the stores, it’s addressing systemic inequities and how to get food sovereignty in those communities.”
To understand the conference, it’s necessary to understand how Hilton-Williams, a former meat-eater got to where she is. A professional caterer, she once did lots of corporate events and made a name for herself for her knack to build great flavor. But, when her husband came down with some chronic health issues, the natural inquisitive thinker took her on a path of research. The end result was plants and more specifically a plant-based diet.
But Hilton-Williams wanted nothing if it didn’t have flavor. She has spent years now developing delicious plant-based recipes, using the food that is familiar but healthier to draw people into a frank conversation about health and wellness.
The conference is where everything coalesces. Speakers include Dr. Milton Mills and Dr. Baxter Montgomery who will discuss the prevention and reversal of Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease respectively. Miyoko Schinner, founder and CEO of Miyokos Creamery will share her journey to create the most delicious plant-based dairy products in the world and the positive environmental impact of doing so.
The summit will also include three vegan chefs who will be on-site to cook and share recipes in a VIP area, along with a BIPOC marketplace that will showcase foods, services and other products.
In addition, Hilton-Williams has curated a panel to discuss the socioeconomics of food apartheid.
“Our mission is to change the reality of marginalized communities through sustainable practices, and we try to make it affordable,” said Michael Brown, executive director of Sustaining Way, who will be part of the panel on food apartheid. “So, food and the way we go about getting our food in the most nutritious manner has been a part of our mission.”
To that end, Sustaining Way has developed a demonstration garden in the heart of the Nicholtown community, considered the most food insecure in the region. The local non-profit has also developed a Backyard Gardens program to help foster growing food, healthy eating and food autonomy.
It is empowering, Brown says.
Telling people that eating meat and fast food is bad for their health is not enough, Hilton-Williams said. You have to help people with how to do it, and especially within food apartheid communities, you have to help address systemic challenges.
“We know this is increasing our risk factors for chronic disease, but I don’t know how to make the food, I don’t know how to shop, I don’t know how to find the stuff. If I’m a food apartheid community, why should I change when I can’t find the food where I live?” Hilton-WIlliams said. “So we try to bring in the gambit to try to address the whole person.”
The Eat Drink Disrupt Summit will take place 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday, April 30 at the Greenville ONE Center, 2 W. Washington St., Greenville.
Tickets available at https://www.herban-eats.com/event-details/EDDsummit
*COVID information: We have on-hand KN95 medical-grade masks for all vendors and guests, hand sanitizer stations and a tri-color lanyarding system (red, yellow & green) that will enable guests to select their social engagement and distance requirements.
Lillia Callum-Penso covers food for the Greenville News. She loves the stories recipes tell and finds inspiration in the people behind them. When she’s not exploring local food, she can be found running, both for pleasure and to keep up with her 6-year-old twins. Reach her at l[email protected], or at 864-478-5872, or on Facebook at facebook.com/lillia.callumpenso.
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This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Eat Drink Disrupt vegan summit ties food apartheid and chronic disease