Baltimore mayor Brandon M. Scott issued a proclamation last Friday declaring August Maryland Vegan Restaurant Month. His enthusiastic support for a plant-based shift joins a chorus of other mayors, including DC’s Muriel Bowser and New York’s Eric Adams. Mayor Scott’s proclamation encourages “Baltimore’s restaurants, schools, grocery stores, organizations, institutions, and citizens to join us in celebrating and entering plant-based foods on their plates” — a direct echo of the plant-forward proclamation ratified two weeks earlier by the US Conference of Mayors.
Mayor Scott’s proclamation names public health and climate change as its two main justifications, citing both peer-reviewed research and the authority of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Heart disease remains the biggest cause of death in Maryland, but its incidence and distribution are heavily racialized. That is to say, Black and Brown Marylanders tend to experience many life-threatening chronic health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes, at rates higher than their white counterparts, largely owing to a disparity in access to healthy foods. It’s this very phenomenon which has inspired Black Americans to embrace a vegan diet in such high numbers.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics holds that a diet rich in plants can be used to prevent and treat certain diseases. This position is likewise held by countless other medical powerhouses, including Johns Hopkins, which confirms that a vegan diet reduces risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and Alzheimer’s, among other conditions. In a country plagued in equal parts by processed foods and chronic illnesses, many healthcare professionals are turning to diet change as the solution. (It’s no coincidence that the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ July resolution earned praise from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.) In 2020s America, plant-centric eating is revolutionary for the human body…
And for the climate. Animal-based foods are responsible for over half of the food sector’s emissions but provide only 18% of the calories we consume, as mentioned in Mayor Scott’s proclamation. A global shift toward plant-forward diets would dramatically slash greenhouse gas emissions, and many people are calling on government officials to lead the charge. Climate salvation shouldn’t be left to citizens alone, especially when state and city leaders can enshrine plant-forward diets by codifying veg-friendly policies into law.
Now, Brandon M. Scott has done just that, like Mayors Bowser, Adams, and others before him.
Sponsored in part by the Better Food Foundation and the Black Veg Society, Maryland Vegan Restaurant Month (MVRM) runs from Friday, August 4 to Sunday, August 27. Mid-month, Marylanders will have a special opportunity to chow down on low-carbon comfort food at Vegan SoulFest, a plant-powered celebration which will be held in West Covington Park on the weekend of August 19–20. The two-day music festival has been known to draw 10,000+ attendees, and this year’s lineup features artists such as R&B veteran Dwele and YouTube phenom Jade Novah.
Importantly, both SoulFest and Vegan Restaurant Month are meant for everyone to attend. Regardless of personal lifestyle, everyone can enjoy and be nourished by vegan food — a sentiment echoed in MVRM’s mission. Event organizers hope “to bridge the gap by increasing the awareness, benefits, and accessibility of a plant-based diet through a fun, innovative, and community-based experience.” Nothing brings people and community together quite like good eats, and in Charm City, there’s plenty to choose from.
Thanks to its rich and vibrant cultural diversity, Baltimore likewise has a rich and vibrant history of plant-based eating, and these celebrations play to the city’s strengths. Local businesses like Land of Kush, Wild Heart Bistro, and Soultarian Cafe have been serving up sustainable, nutritious food for years, helping keep the city’s atmosphere cool and its people fueled. Now, the region’s avant garde approach to vegan grub has earned it a spot in the limelight as other cities look to Baltimore for inspiration.
We join Vegan SoulFest co-founder Naijha Wright-Brown in thanking Mayor Brandon Scott for his support and for his visionary leadership. Plant-based eating is the future, and cities are catching on. Mayor Scott is the latest in a series of municipal leaders who are charging boldly into a plant-forward future — but he won’t be the last. One by one, governments are embracing veg-rich diets as a silver bullet solution: in one fell swoop, leaders can advance climate action, promote citizen wellbeing, and support small businesses.
Mikhala Kaseweter is Content Manager for the Better Food Foundation.