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Inclusivity & Anti-racism

Everyone eats plant-based foods

“Learning “how” and “why” our current food system operates the way it does with respect to Black people and, most importantly—how we have come to see our current system as normal —is what academics call decolonizing. Or, as my students describe this process, finding our way back to Wakanda.”


“The future of plant-based eating is to think about more than just eating.”

The vegan community is clearly diverse—which may help explain why younger generations are shying away from animal products in droves. 60% of the United States is white and non-Hispanic… but when you break that down by age, a stark pattern emerges: the younger the generation, the more racially diverse it is.1 Only 52% of Gen Z identify as white.2 With racial justice and climate justice fueling their purchases and their activism, Gen Z is playing an important role in food justice, helping flip cultural norms in order to build a more inclusive world.

Are you “lactose normal”?

Your ability to digest milk after infancy depends on your genetics—and because the gene for lactose tolerance originated with Northern Europeans, lactose intolerance is strongly correlated with race. An estimated 80% of African Americans and Native Americans, 90% of Asian Americans3, and 70% of Jewish Americans are lactose intolerant.4 In practical terms, that means one out of every three Americans struggles to digest lactose.

For humans, lactose intolerance is the norm. We agree with Food Empowerment Project that it’s time to flip the script on how we talk about the global majority—the approximately 70% of the world’s population with lactose malabsorption.5

Wait, food policies can be racist? Yep.

Despite the fact that BIPOC communities have high rates of lactose intolerance, the government still demands that dairy be included in school lunches, often without a plant-based option. This means that minority students are often pressured to consume a product that makes them ill. Policies like this that make dairy the default harm communities of color. They amount to dietary racism, just like building a polluting factory in a Black neighborhood amounts to environmental racism.

Beyond dairy defaults, our food and farming system is fraught with systemic racism. The majority of factory farm and slaughterhouse workers are people of color or undocumented immigrants, working extremely dangerous, low-paying jobs.6 It’s not just the workers who are exploited but the neighbors too: The intentional location of factory farms in low-income communities is environmental racism, and these massive farm operations harm residents every time they pollute land, water, and airways.

Flipping our plates and minds so we don’t use our dollars to support these industries is anti-racism in practice.

Plants are the most inclusive foods

There are lots of different reasons people don’t eat animal products—religion, health, personal ethics—but there’s no reason why someone who eats meat can’t eat a plant-based meal once in a while. So when you’re serving food in a group or at a conference, the way to make sure everyone can eat is to serve plant-based foods.

Serving plant-based food by default includes everybody. With no pork, kosher and halal are moot. With no dairy, lactose tolerance is irrelevant. With no beef, cardiac patients and environmentalists don’t have to worry. With no eggs, Jains and vegans can breathe easy.

Serve plant-based food by default, and everyone can have a seat at the table.



“US Census Bureau QuickFacts,” United States Census Bureau,


Ruth Parker and Ruth Igielnik, “On the Cusp of Adulthood and Facing an Uncertain Future: What We Know About Gen Z So Far,” Pew Research Center, last modified May 14, 2020,


“Lactose Intolerance,” Boston Children’s Hospital, accessed August 14, 2023,


Saul Kamionsky, “We’re Lactose Intolerant, So Why All The Cheese?” South African Jewish Report, last modified November 25, 2021,


Christian Løvold Storhaug, Svein Kjetil Fosse, and Lars T Fadnes, “Country, regional, and global estimates for lactose malabsorption in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2, no. 10 (October 2017): 738–746,


Shawn Fremstad, Hye Jin Rho, and Hayley Brown, “Meatpacking Workers Are a Diverse Group Who Need Better Protections,” Center for Economic and Policy Research, last modified April 29, 2020,