Joel Helfrich, Rochester River School

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Part I: Joel Helfrich, Rochester River School: Proposed First Vegan Public School in the U.S
Joel-2Joel is a father, educator, and activist who lives in the City of Rochester, near Highland Park. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor of history at Monroe Community College and, formerly, a Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He received his BA in history from the University of Rochester, an MPhil degree in American Studies from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. His doctoral dissertation is a historical investigation of Western Apache struggles over a sacred and ecologically unique mountain in Arizona from 1871 to 2002. He has also worked on animal rights, environmental, historic and sacred sites preservation, and social justice issues. He holds the conviction that a myopic focus defeats the most important work any historian does—being an informed and informative member of society. He sees the environment as a site where much of his historical training can be brought to bear, so he continues to pursue those interests as well as others.


Click here to help open the Rochester River School, through CROWDRISE.

TRANSCRIPTION PART I:

Hello everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass. It’s time for It’s All About Food. I’m actually in Chicago at the moment. I’ve been away from New York where I live for about two months in California. I’m briefly on an overnight little trip here in Chicago. I’m broadcasting from a hotel, which I’m very glad to be able to do this. It’s nice and quiet but the one thing that I want to ask everyone is, it’s about air conditioning. I’m grateful when it’s really, really hot to be able to have some air conditioning because it helps you work, it helps you get things done. What I don’t understand is why does it have to be freezing? It’s like 91 degrees outside and it’s a refrigerator inside. It’s just one of those mysteries of modern life, isn’t it? If anyone has an answer you can let me know at info@realmeals.org because I would like to know. I’m also grateful that I have a robe to sit in to stay cozy so that I don’t catch cold while I’m sitting here. I’m very excited because we have a very interesting guest and I can’t wait to get started talking to him and talking about his newest project. My guest is Joel Helfrich. He is a father, educator and activist and he lives in the city of Rochester near Highland Park. He is an adjunct associate professor of history at Monroe Community College and formerly a visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He received his B.A. in History from the University of Rochester and a MPHIL degree in American Studies from the University of Glasgow in Scotland and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Minnesota. His doctoral dissertation is a historical investigation of Western Apache struggles over a sacred and ecologically unique mountain in Arizona from 1871 to 2002. He has also worked on animal rights, environmental, historic and sacred sites preservation and social justice issues. He holds the conviction—and I love this part of his bio—he holds the conviction that a myopic focus defeats the most important work any historian does, being an informed and informative member of society. He sees the environment as a site where much of his historical training can be brought to bear so he continues to pursue those interests as well as others.

Caryn Hartglass: Joel, thank you for joining me today.

Joel Helfrich: No, thank you for having me on.

Caryn Hartglass: So, you contacted me because you wanted to share some information about this new project of yours—The Rochester River School. I want to hear absolutely everything about it because I’ve been to the website and it just sounds like the loveliest vision that I could wish for all children who go to school.

Joel Helfrich: So I was fortunate enough, as you said, to teach for a few years as a visiting faculty member at Hobart William Smith Colleges. One day while I was teaching I had a student of mine walk into my office and ask me, “What do you know about the Harbor School in New York City?” I quickly responded that I had never heard of it. After the student left—I think that he thought that given my interest in the environment that I would find the school fascinating—so after he left my office I went online and watched a few videos and I was floored by the work that they were able to get students to do at this high school which is located on Governor’s Island in New York City. What finally really drew me in was the fact that Bill Clinton had given a speech at The Harbor School during a fundraiser a number of years ago and he said two things that really caught my attention. One is he said, “This place is amazing”, and two, “The work that is being done at the school should be replicated in every single port city in the world.” So the next time I talked to the student who was a 2011 valedictorian of The Harbor School, the school that focuses on sustainability related work and environmental conservation and also maritime work. I flippantly asked the student, “Hey, the city of Rochester, New York where I live is a port city, a river city, it’s an Erie Canal city, it’s a Finger Lake city and it’s also a Great Lakes city.” So I said, “Look what do you think about the idea of trying to replicate The Harbor School in Rochester.” This is more than 2-2½ years ago. We basically started to talk to anybody that would listen to us. We talked to business leaders, nonprofit executives, teachers, parents, several superintendents, and basically what we realized was that trying to start a high school in Rochester, New York would be a nearly impossible feat given the number of problems that we have in our community. Rochester, New York, has a really low graduation rate, the worst in New York State. At times it’s had the worst graduation rate for African American male students and the worst graduation for Latino students in the country, at 9 and 10% respectively. We have tremendous amounts of poverty in Rochester. According to recent studies in the last year we have the highest rates of extreme poverty for a city of our size in the US and we also have extremely terrible birthrates for teenage women. So all those kind of statistics coupled with the fact that we have 70% rate of trauma among our student population in the city made us realize that trying to start at the high school level where students at 9th grade might be 5 grade levels behind in reading, writing and math would be a nonstarter. So we shifted gears for a time thought we would start a 5-12 school and within the last 6 months our board for this nonprofit we’ve created called The Rochester River Foundation, which would be the mission-supporting and financial-support arm of the Rochester River School, decided to go with a K-12 model. So we will start with kindergarten and basically add a grade each year until ultimately it’s a K-12 school. We’ve also changed the focus a little bit so that instead of focusing strictly on maritime education and so forth we’re going with a humane education focus. So we will look at issues of human rights, environmental stewardship, animal ethics and also cultural issues with the goal of trying to create what are called solutionaries. So we want to have active students who are doers, who are trying to create a lot more good and a lot less harm, trying to combat injustice with justice. We are also proposing to be the first vegan public school in the country and that has gotten us a little bit of attention as well.

Caryn Hartglass: Well that got my attention.

Joel Helfrich: It’s been an up hill battle. We initially thought for two years that we were going to be a district school and we couldn’t find a champion for our school in the district given the number of problems that the district faces. We’ve decided to pursue a charter route. As soon as we can raise the funding to get our application in order we will be applying to the state to get a charter.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m not that familiar with the different designations of schools so what does that mean…if you have a charter?

Joel Helfrich: Charter schools are public schools. The difference is that instead of having our school run by a school district we will have our school run by a school board as well as the head of school. There are some people who don’t like charters and there are some people that are really champions for charters. We are thinking that we are doing enough things that are different that we hope people will embrace our school. And in fact, that seems to be the case that’s what we’ve have found, is that people are actually not only saying there’s a need for our school in the district, but they’re actually demanding that our school open. We recently completed an online community survey of more than 500 individuals. About 60% of those individuals were folks who lived in the city, many of whom have children. We have people saying in the district that we want the school to open; we want to send our children to your school. We even get people from outside the district saying, “Look if you open your school we will move into the city in order to send our children to your school.”

Caryn Hartglass: Now aside from cost are there other obstacles to making this happen?

Joel Helfrich: Really the biggest obstacle is that the most recent charter applications that have been approved in New York State that I’ve looked at are pretty lengthy, between and 500 and 600 pages. So it’s a pretty massive undertaking, a pretty heavy lift. So we have decided that there are some contractors and some consultants that we would like to hire. People that have basically done this work time and again so we don’t have to replicate the wheel. So we don’t have to try and figure out how best to present the school to the state. We will work with some consultants and write the application. Right now we are facing the challenge of trying to raise what we figured out was about $50,000 and we will be launching a crowd funding campaign soon on Crowdrise. Should we go to raise that money we would immediately start working on writing our application and hopefully get that before the SUNY, the State University of New York, at the next available opportunity, hopefully before the end of the year.

Caryn Hartglass: So the Crowdrise hasn’t started yet?

Joel Helfrich: We haven’t. We’re probably about a week away from launching that campaign.

Caryn Hartglass: OK. Now, we’re in some troubled times, that’s mild. I like Facebook, for example, for sharing happy stories and pictures of families and friends and people I haven’t seen in awhile but it’s changed and it’s just one example of what’s going on in this country and in our hearts because of all the violence and horror and hatred that’s going on. It’s so overwhelming, nobody likes it, people are polarized and taking sides. It seems so hopeless and then I read about a project like yours and I think, “Yeah, this is it. This is what we need. We need to be refocusing all of our attention on all of these good issues, these right issues and educating our young children on social issues and ecosystem issues, the environment and eating healthy, delicious food.” This is where it should be so I was just like able to breathe. So thank you, thank you Joel.

Joel Helfrich: It’s not just me. There’s a bunch of great people that are working on this. We are trying to create these solutionaries, these children that are going to try to figure out how to solve some of these huge problems, like you said, whether it’s violence or climate change or poverty, various forms of inequality. There’s no reason to believe that children can’t be working on trying to find solutions to all the myriad of problems that we’ve just raised. We think that knowing where your food comes from, helping to grow food, to basically eat really healthy and nutritious food that’s plant-based. We firmly believe that that’s the best thing for the environment and from a sustainability perspective. We feel that it’s obviously the best thing for the animals and in terms of human health and lastly social justice. We’ve been really, I don’t want to say surprised by the support especially for that aspect of the school and the vegan affect that we’re putting forth but it’s been really empowering to recognize that there’s a lot of great people out there who are doing great work and who support this idea. We hope to be one of a number of people and a number of schools nationally and globally that adopt similar policies.

Caryn Hartglass: Yourself and the other people that are developing this program, are you students of the Zoe Weil’s Humane Education Program since this is based on the principles of humane education?

Joel Helfrich: Definitely. In 2014 when we started thinking about our school, the Institute of Humane Education at that time was planning to create what they were calling a solutionary school in New York City. So one of our first things that we did was we invited Zoe Weil from the Institute of Humane Education to Rochester and we hosted a workshop and basically introduced the city of Rochester to these principles of humane education. That was a great first step. So, yeah, we’ve been working with the Institute and they are supporting the work that we’re doing and have been very helpful obviously, as you mentioned with social media. We expect to have a stronger relationship in the future and furthermore we also expect that a lot of the teachers they’ve helped to create in the last decade or two, that some of those teachers might come to Rochester and be some of the early teachers for our school.

Caryn Hartglass: This concept of solutionaries is so critical for our children because so many of them hear what’s going on in the world today it’s really hard to be a child today and be sheltered from everything that’s going around and not be affected by it and not feel that things are hopeless. And this concept, maybe you could talk a little bit more about the concept behind solutionaries and empowering these young people to know that they can make a difference.

Joel Helfrich: I think that, you said it best, it’s extremely important and it’s possible. If we do what Thoreau said…he said there’s a thousand people that are striking at the branches of injustice in our world but there’s only really one that’s striking at the roots. A lot of people believe that that one issue is education. We think that if we are really going to strive for any kind of sustainability or, better still, some kind of thrivability that we need solutionaries. Young people who have basically been taught to solve problems in strategic and comprehensive ways, that are going to look to do the most good and the least harm. It could be to themselves, to other people. It could be to other species or the environment. So that’s the real focus of our school is to create generations of solutionaries and that’s a concept that’s really catching on in terms of animal rights and the human rights communities and we hope to be a part of that larger process and effort.

Caryn Hartglass: Do you have an idea of what a day in the life of a child going to your school would be like.

Joel Helfrich: We’re going to have some of the more traditional things that you could think of, you know the reading, the writing and math but we also hope to get kids outside on a daily basis. At least one day a week we hope to get them on the river. We have a river called the Genesee River. It actually flows right through the city of Rochester. There are actually two or three falls as you go through the city one of which is a hundred or hundred plus feet, maybe even more than that. We hope to get these children on the river, experiencing the river, doing either soil testing or water testing for hydrogeology projects, do ecological journaling, different biology work. We also want to have our children and these students growing their own food for the school. The alternate goal would be to have the food that is served to the students be food that they have themselves grown and harvested and cleaned and prepared and maybe even get to the point where we could send food home to children. So we know that a good portion of our kids are going to come to school either hungry because they haven’t eaten in a long time or they are going to come to school having eaten food that’s really not nutritious or anything close to nutritious. We really think it’s important that these students learn how to grow their own food, share that knowledge with their family and community and then eat the food that they’ve prepared. I’m not a K-12 educator and a lot of these details have got to be worked out but I do see that our kids are going to be outside, really trying to take on the thing called the nature-deficit disorder, so getting kids reconnected with the out of doors. Given that humans spend most of their time indoors and we think that there are tremendous benefits to getting them outside, we will certainly be doing that.

Caryn Hartglass: This sounds a lot better than Pokémon Go to get kids outdoors.

Joel Helfrich: You’re probably on to something. (laughs) Definitely.

Caryn Hartglass: Now Rochester, Rochester was a great city and was thriving at one point and it’s just so sad to see how it has just gone down into such poverty. Kodak was there and a lot of the early semiconductor industry technology got started there with the film industry and it’s just a very different place now. As you mentioned when we first started, the intersection of so many great bodies of water, it really is meant to be a thriving metropolis.

Joel Helfrich: Definitely. Rochester was the United States’ first boomtown, arguably or at least, not on the coast boomtown I should say, inland boomtown. It really was hopping, still is to a great extent, just replace certain industries with others. You’re exactly right—Kodak, Xerox and Bausch and Lomb—that kind of triad of industry. We are an old rustbelt city. We were the, at one point in the early years of the 19th century, the world’s producer of flour products, flour milling industries. For a good portion of the time we were also the flower city. So we had the world’s largest nursery in Rochester, New York.

Caryn Hartglass: Wow. I would never know that.

Joel Helfrich: Yeah, we were also were one of four complete Frederick Law Olmstead designed park systems in the United States, the other three being Louisville, Boston and Buffalo. So there are a lot of amazing resources and things have happened here. Susan B. Anthony’s home is here. Frederick Douglass spent the largest portion of his life in Rochester and published a number of newspapers out of Rochester, so there’s this amazing legacy and assets that have been to a great extent and arguably untapped. So we have a number of people who are finally recognizing here in the 21st century that, for example, the body of water that runs through the city—well the city turned its back on that river for a long time and our elected officials and other people are finally recognizing that we need to return to the river and return to this place and really try and reconnect with this place. So we think that our school will be not the kind of answer to all the problems that we talked about but we can be part of the solution to the various problems that our city faces. There’s a lot of great things that are going on here, we’ve got a lot of great people, some really wonderful businesses, so we’re going to be part of that I hope.

Caryn Hartglass: It seems…and I’ve read this a lot…that the most creativity seems to come out of misfortune and I don’t recommend misfortune to anyone, or poverty or anything, but that’s when we dig deep and come up with our greatest ideas.

Joel Helfrich: No, I think that’s right. Again, we’re just part of this larger effort to try to figure out how to deal with the complex problems that our local community faces and the United States and the people on this earth face. We’re just going to try to do our little part. Hopefully get to a point where we’ve got students that graduate from the River School and continue to do great things.

Caryn Hartglass: OK, let’s talk about plant-based foods because this program is called It’s All About Food. We don’t always talk about food on this show but most of the time we do, it’s my favorite subject. You mentioned to me that you’ve been vegan since 2000?

Joel Helfrich: That’s correct.

Caryn Hartglass: What was your epiphany?

Joel Helfrich: Oh boy. There were a couple of stages in my life where I thought differently about food. One was when I was in high school I was dating someone who had given up pork products for Lent. When Lent ended, I’d stopped eating pork products just in a sign of solidarity and when Lent ended my partner at the time, she went back to eating pork-based products and I never ate them again. Then in college, again, I was dating someone who became a vegetarian, not entirely because of them but because I started thinking about the ways in which my diet affected animals. And then probably the largest epiphany happened when I was teaching at the University of Minnesota, I was teaching an English composition course, based on the environment, and I had a student who was vegan and she did a presentation that dealt with factory farming and animal rights and slaughterhouses. She didn’t point to me and say, “Hey why aren’t you a vegan?” but her presentation made me think about how many inconsistencies, maybe even contradictions I had had in my own life. I was still drinking milk, still eating dairy products and so forth, and eggs. I spent about a week really kind of grappling with the issues that she had raised in her presentation that, again, weren’t direct to me but got me thinking. So about a week went by, I woke up and I had my traditional Standard American Diet breakfast. It was predominantly milk-based and I basically threw up, several times, and I never…from that afternoon I stopped eating any diary products. I was on a high for two or three days. I felt wonderful, like I had kind of purged stuff out of my system. I had grown up in a place just outside of Rochester where there was a dairy. I would go to that dairy once I learned how to drive and I would come back with gallons of milk in glass bottles. Every time I would drive home either a grandmother or some older parent would roll down their window and say it’s great to see somebody drinking milk because I would drink it on the way home. I kind of cringe at that now but I basically just said I’m not going to do this any more. I few days later I gave away my leather boots and my belt and my wallet. I haven’t turned back since and I have no intention of doing so. In fact, the vegan aspect of the school was the only non-negotiable when we started doing this work, my co-founder and I. I said we can change things, we can modify things, we can do different projects. We thought we were opening a high school but now we’re creating a K-12 school. So we’re open and flexible but on this issue of plant-based diet we feel like we can’t teach our children about humane education while simultaneously serving them meat, dairy and eggs.

Caryn Hartglass: This is beautiful. Good for you. Stick to it. I really have great respect for that. Children should be taught the truth and children should be taught as much as possible to live without hypocrisy which is really hard for us.

Joel Helfrich: I agree. I’ve seen it in my own family. My daughter is vegetarian when she’s with her mom and she’s vegan when she’s with me but I’ve seen it with some of my nieces and nephews. I remember distinctly a time when my niece was three years old or so. She had somehow figured that the pork on her plate had come from a pig. My brother and I think my parents possibly and my sister-in-law basically kind of convinced her that it was ok for her to eat that even though she had, in her…really brilliant…figured out that she didn’t want to eat that food that had come from an animal. I’ve seen this time and again. My neighbors have done the same thing; friends have done the same thing with their children. It really kind of, to me, knocks down these creative individuals who inherently know better and don’t want to eat the food but we have these socially constructed desires that tell us, oh it’s ok to eat these foods. I just have a problem with that.

Caryn Hartglass: We do it with everything. We do it with food. It’s very apparent as vegans to know how people do this with food but society does it with so many things.

Joel Helfrich: Oh sure.

Caryn Hartglass: We mold children to our thoughts of what’s right and what’s wrong.

Joel Helfrich: It could be about celebrating Christopher Columbus.

Caryn Hartglass: Exactly. There’s our history, right there. We had our own holocaust right here in the United States.

Joel Helfrich: Right.

Caryn Hartglass: We celebrate it in this twisted way but I think that’s changing a little bit, slowly.

Joel Helfrich: All this is. Even here in Rochester, the PCRM came to town and had a number of rather well-known physicians come through the city in the last four or five months through an organization in Rochester called Rochester Area Vegan Society which has been around 25 maybe 35 years, I’m not sure. We did the 21-day vegan challenge.

Caryn Hartglass: The Kickstart…

Joel Helfrich: The Kickstart, you got it, Kickstart Your Health; the mayor issued a proclamation in support of that. There are more people who are thinking about the food that they’re putting into their bodies. We’ve had a number of great vegan restaurants in Rochester come online in the last few years, really amazing vegan restaurants actually. Seen a lot more bakeries and cupcake shops that have said, well we’re going to at least be half vegan, if not fully vegan.

Caryn Hartglass: Is that like being half pregnant? No, I know what it means.

Joel Helfrich: Or I’m only going to eat vegan stuff one day a week. People are at least thinking more about it and they’re more aware of it.

Caryn Hartglass: I told you that I really liked this piece in your bio. I thought maybe we could talk about it a little bit. Your conviction that a myopic focus defeats the most important work any historian does.

Joel Helfrich: I’m kind of a Jack-of-all-trades. The last two years have been a huge learning curve for me trying to understand a huge amount of issues regarding K-12 education. I try to follow my passions I guess is the bottom line so that’s led me in a number of directions over the years to doing things that many people might think are unrelated. So, for example, I worked with a number of Western Apaches in Arizona to try to get the University of Minnesota and the University of Virginia not to buy into a telescope project on a sacred and ecologically unique mountain. I’ve tried to in a number of cities save unique historic properties. I’ve been a part of efforts to protest any number of issues regarding indigenous peoples and their rights or animal rights and liberation issues. All these things don’t look like they’re together but I try to just follow my passions and try to be a good person as best I can.

Caryn Hartglass: We’ve been taught a certain history, a certain story and the story is different based on the storyteller. I love the People’s History of the United States is an example. It was a very different history of the United States than I learned when I was in school and I hope children today are learning a more varied history with different perspectives because the history from the perspective of the victor is very different from the perspective of those who have been exploited.

Joel Helfrich: I totally agree. Coming back to Christopher Columbus, for a minute. I have a lot of trouble with people who say, well you know this is the way we should teach this history. I believe that we should teach about Christopher Columbus but it shouldn’t be to glorify. I think that we can teach little children in an age-appropriate manner that the kind of person that Christopher Columbus was. Here you have an individual who was really part of a first wave of enslaving indigenous peoples in the Americas, who bragged about sharpening his knives on the back of indigenous peoples, who is really in charge of a lot of violence against native peoples here and against his own crew for that matter. He had offered a reward to the first person on his ship to see land and when, I can’t remember who it was, one of the guys on the ship said, “Hey there’s land”, Christopher Columbus in order to collect the reward, said, “Well, no actually I saw land several hours ago.” We at least need to interrogate this history a little bit. What is the harm in saying that Christopher Columbus was a bad guy? We can’t imagine somebody talking about Hitler and saying, well you know he was a kind of a second rate artist and he had the ability to really instill a great amount of loyalty by his words and his ability to move people and his public kind of perception and so forth. Is that what we’re going to talk about or can we tell a little child that this is not a good person? To me that is being more honest than simply saying well, no, we’ve named a national holiday after him so we need to teach that he’s a great person.

Caryn Hartglass: I think we’d do a lot better solving today’s problems if we didn’t have this ego attached to history that wasn’t even real—this make-America-great-again thing. We’re just human beings. We’re the same as everyone all over the planet. We all want clean air to breathe and clean water to drink and healthy food for our families, a home to live in. We all want the same things. It’s not about being better or worse.

Joel Helfrich: Right. I haven’t even tried to try to figure out how to unpack that expression but I do think that we would do better to try to work together. Whenever anybody talks about our school I say, look we are interested in collaboration and cooperation. We know, and there have been a number of studies that have suggested in just in the last few years, that even sports teams are often better when they’re working on cooperation rather than competition. I think that there is tremendous benefit—and I think maybe even going back through history there’s some huge cases and examples where cooperation has born amazing results over trying to compete with each other for resources or knowledge or what have you, or land, especially land.

Caryn Hartglass: Cooperation is really important and it’s also changing the way we look at our ancestors. Archeologists, anthropologists, all those folks who are studying history from a really long time ago and had all kinds of assumptions of us being aggressive hunters and now starting to come up with new theories that it was cooperation that really enabled us to move forward and advance.

Joel Helfrich: Neal Barnard said something when he was in Rochester that had a PCRM. He said something to the effect that he had been inquiring with, I don’t think it was Richard Leakey, but one of the Leakey family members about the meat consumption among Neanderthals and so forth. The reaction was that they were not these big meat eaters that we’ve made them out to be. I’ve been meaning to follow-up with Dr. Barnard about that. I think that we would be smart to, like you said, let go of our ego and recognize that we don’t know everything. There’s still so much about this earth, about this planet, let alone outer space or the deepest parts of our oceans, things that we simply don’t know when we would be smart to acknowledge that and bring forth a lot more humility and a lot more compassion, certainly empathy would be great, but really focusing on compassion and humility would be wonderful.

Caryn Hartglass: Would really be wonderful. Would really be wonderful. Let’s just put that out there to the universe. The Rochester River School—how do we stay in touch with you and find out when this Crowdrise project is starting and how can people find out more. Do they just go to your website?

Joel Helfrich: Definitely. People go to our website which is rochesterriverschool.org. There’s a link on that site to our Facebook page. We’re trying to get people to like our Facebook page which obviously shows a little bit of support. As long as they are connected up with us through Facebook we can then let people know, hopefully in the next week or so, when we’ve launched this fundraising effort. There’s updates on that, there’s updates on our website. If people want to email me directly they can reach me at info@rochesterriverschool.org. Anybody can write to me. You don’t have to have children and you don’t have to live in Rochester to reach out so wherever listeners are and they want to contact us, we would love to hear from them.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s nice. I was just smiling when you were mentioning your Facebook page. It seems like the beginning of this interview and towards the end we’re beginning and ending with Facebook.

Joel Helfrich: Right.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s really a very important place whether you like Facebook or not there’s a lot of life there and we can use it for good if we choose to.

Joel Helfrich: No, I agree. I don’t have my own Facebook page but I’ve seen the benefits of it. Within the last year we’ve connected with people through Facebook for the school. In my own life with people I know I’ve helped to rescue animals actually through Facebook. So I completely agree.

Caryn Hartglass: OK, Joel, it’s been such a pleasure talking with you today. Thank you.

Joel Helfrich: You’re welcome and thanks for inviting me.

Caryn Hartglass: OK, take care.

Joel Helfrich: All right, you too, bye bye.

Caryn Hartglass: Bye, bye. That was Joel Helfrich everyone of the Rochester River School. I’ll mention the website again, rochesterriverschool.org. Just go there, ok and read their vision, their mission. I think it will make you feel good. It made me feel good. We need to be feeling good.

Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly, 7/31/2016

TRANSCRIPTION PART II:

We just have a, a few minutes left and I just wanted to talk about a number of different things. So, here’s something that I hope will make you feel good. You know Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and his son Rip Esselstyn, his daughter Jane Esselstyn, his wife Ann Crile Esselstyn. They have been working tirelessly for a long time promoting plant based foods. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has a wonderful book, Prevent Heart Disease. I’ve interviewed him and Rip Esselstyn and Ann and Jane and they’re all very lovely people. Well, they have events going on and I want to let you know about them because if you want to mingle and schmooze with these wonderful people and a lot of other great folks that are promoting this plant based message that we all love or want to find out more about. These events are going on. They have these weekend events in Dallas, Cleveland and Pasadena and they also have a weeklong retreat in October in Sedona and I’ve got some discount codes for you. So, if you are interested in the weekend pass if you use the code REAL50 you get a $50 dollar off the cost of the weekend pass and if you want to go to the retreat, use the code REAL150 and you get $150 dollar discount. I’m really happy to be able to promote these events and share these discounts with you. You can go to ResponsibleEatingandLiving.com. We have it advertised on our home page. They’re called 2Forks events. So that’s the number two, forks events. And their website is 2Forksevents.com. That could be a lot of fun, meeting and greeting. When I first started getting involved in my advocacy for vegan food, I went to as many events as I could. Now, this is a long time ago and that meant there weren’t many events [laughter]. So, I thought I was going to all of them because there weren’t that many and then I started to organize the dinner lectures in New York and we had a very large all vegan festival in Manhattan called the Taste of Health from 2002 to 2006. I think it was the biggest vegan festival at the time. Maybe even ever. We had about 10,000 people moving into that festival. But the vegetarian, vegan festivals now are just so much better because there are many more products, many more people involved, many more businesses and lots of information to share, so many videos and books. It’s just a wealth and you can get it all online and I’m glad you’re listening here to my program which is available for free online for anyone, but there’s nothing better than meeting people face-to-face and that’s this kind of disconnect we have because of the Internet, thanks to the Internet, at the cost of the Internet. Where we spend so much time looking at a screen learning, but were missing that human interaction which is really what we’re supposed to be doing and feels really good when we share nice moments with people and so events like these are really great because the food’s going to be fabulous, you know it’s going to be clean, it’s going to be all plant foods. It’s led by Caldwell Esselstyn, a medical doctor and Rip Esselstyn, too, who is really good with food. He has a number of books out with lots of recipes. Of course, manly food. Food for manly men, right? He was a firefighter for people that want to be strong. Not just men, of course, I’m being silly, but a, for a long time, this diet, vegan diet, plant based diet was thought not to be adequate for people to build muscles and was thought to be kind of a weakling, a diet for weaklings in a way and now we’re seeing that that is so not true. Many, many athletes are moving towards eating plants. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, if you haven’t read that, has given up eating meat and he’s actually working with the Chinese to help them cut their meat intake in half, I think by 2030 maybe. Let me get that wrong or maybe right. [Laughter]. So, that’s of that program, those events, the real code REAL50 for $50.00 off for the weekend and REAL150 for the retreat. I hope you use it. Another thing I wanted to talk about, briefly, is I just published an article on the ResponsibleEatingandLiving.com page. It’s something I’ve been working on for years. I’ve titled it, The Cancer Diagnosis: Taking charge of your Health and Healing. When people used to contact me about cancer and what I did to heal from cancer, I would send them a version of this article and I’ve worked on it for a long time as I mentioned and I’m finally very happy that I posted it and I shared it. Many people have been reading it and commenting about it and I want you to know about it. You can read it, you can download it, you can share it. There’s a lot of great information in there and links to resources that can be helpful to people who get a cancer diagnosis which is one of the more scary things that can happen to us in life. We all know we’re going to die, but it would be ideal if we could live a long, happy, healthy, quality life for, I said a long time, but long like, however long you want to live and then when you’re tired you just go to sleep and move on to the next phase, whatever that is, but a cancer diagnosis that’s like a very bad kick in the gut and scary and I like rather than inflicting fear which happens a lot today by our government and by our society, scaring us into doing things. I like inspiring hope and there’s so much that you can do as an individual to prevent cancer and to bounce back from it if it happens to get a little aggressive in your body and a lot of it our conventional medical community doesn’t know about so they can’t share it and that’s one good thing about the Internet. So, please visit and read The Cancer Diagnosis and please share it. And again, if you want to know more you can always e-mail me just like Joel was saying, he’s happy to engage with anyone and he shared with his e-mail. I do the same thing info@realmeals.org. Please, if you have any questions, comments, I want to hear about them. We have a, let’s see maybe five, four minutes left a, I wanted to tell you that I’m eating chia seeds. Okay, this show is called, It’s All About Food. So, I like to talk about food and it’s not that I’ve never had chia seeds before. I’ve had some chia puddings that my friends have made. I’ve never really liked them. I’m sure I’ve had them in different things, but I’ve always opted at home to buy flax seeds. The primary reason is flax seeds are a lot cheaper and from what I’ve read, they’re pretty even in terms of the omega-3 fatty acids that you can get from them. So, I’ve stuck with flax seeds and I’ve been using them for a very, very long time and very happy with them, but as I mentioned, I’ve been in California for two months, were actually going to be in California for another month before heading back to New York and I don’t have all of my pantry of staples that I love and I love to prepare food and cook food and so, it’s been a little frustrating when we don’t have the tools and the space that we like to have to prepare meals and a, we were in the store and I saw a bag of chia seeds there and I knew that I hadn’t been eating my flax seeds because I didn’t have a good blender or a spice grinder to grind flax seeds and as you know when we eat flax seeds, it’s best to buy them whole because they will be fresh. They don’t really go bad as a whole seed for a long time and then we need to grind them because we can’t digest them whole. They have to be ground and you need a really sharp blade to grind those things. Those shells are tough and a, a good spice grinder, coffee grinder is what I use to grind my flax seeds and I didn’t have anything to do that here and when I saw the chia seeds and they weren’t that expensive. I knew that I didn’t have to grind them. So, I thought, “get the chia seeds” and for the last two weeks I’ve been enjoying them. I’ve been putting them in my oats, my rolled oats, my steel-cut oats and I know that they should be soaked and they’re very easy to soak they plump up and soften up very quickly once you put them in water. Even eating them plain they have a nice little crunch like a Rice Krispies or something. So, I’ve been enjoying my chia experience. A, yes, we just have a couple of minutes left now and I had a few things that I wanted to bring up and I don’t want to end on a sour note, but I want to inspire everybody to please contact your representatives in Congress. We have that DARK Act and we thought it was done, but it’s still happening. The Senate recently approved a version of the DARK Act and that’s to get GMO labeling kind of watered down and there’s a bit in this legislation where they want to use a QR Code, a quick response code, a bar code that would be on the label so you can’t read it, but your smart phone can read it and that means you need to have a smart phone and that’s not a good thing because people don’t have smart phones, it’s not convenient, and I’m thinking to myself, would any person that’s selling a food product, would they not tell you what the food is? Would they not say, you have to know that on the label it’ll say what it is. It’ll say it’s milk or it’s chocolate or it’s candy or something. A distributor isn’t going to want to put a bar code for what the food is because they know people aren’t going to know what it is and that’s why they want to use this kind of code to say that their item is GMO because they don’t want people to know and that’s why this legislation is bad. So, if you have a chance to contact your representatives and tell them to vote this down. We keep doing it and Congress keeps throwing it back. It’s not a good thing. And that’s your assignment for today or tomorrow, okay? And, that’s it. I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’ve been listening to It’s All About Food. Join me at ResponsibleEatingandLiving.com, e-mail me at and please have a delicious week!! Bye Bye!!

 

Transcribed by Nannete Gagyi, 8/24/2016

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