Inspired by the changes in her own life, a Somers Point teacher wants to educate her community on the importance of consuming unprocessed foods and avoiding animal-based foods.

The concept has been more widely accepted and understood in recent years, but Mimi Lynch believes that understanding the economic and political interests affecting the industry can lead to a better understanding of how to find a healthy, research-proven diet.

“No one sitting on the dairy council should be telling us how much milk we should drink,” said Lynch, a teacher at Jordan Road School in Somers Point. “Policymakers all have financial ties to the industry.”

An $800 Healthy Schools grant from AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center is funding the five-part monthly movie and dinner series at the Jordan Road School. The first was Jan. 29 in her classroom, Room 112.

A group of about 10 teachers and parents gathered last Tuesday night to watch the 2011 documentary “Forks Over Knives” — a title that suggests eating right prevents a visit under the surgical knife. The group was treated to a healthy dinner prepared by the school’s seventh- and eighth-graders in the Family and Consumer Science Club, said Lynch, who is in charge of the club at her school.

The documentary showed research in the last 40 years that indicates decreased consumption of animal-based or processed foods can prevent a majority of chronic diseases in the U.S., including heart diseases and the likelihood of some cancers.

Lynch said she changed to a more whole-foods and plant-based diet to avoid the heart diseases both her parents had. It takes time to learn what to cook and how to make the time to prepare it, she said.

“I won’t have to pencil in my open-heart surgery now,” Lynch said.

Lynch said studies over the years have proven it, but mainstream media has yet to pick up on the research. While healthy eating is encouraged, the chemical and biological effects of some foods is not fully understood.

The culprit is an ongoing battle between political and economic interests, said Joel Edman, a nutritionist in Cape May Court House and visiting assistant professor at Richard Stockton College.

But individuals are taking to making the changes in their diet by themselves, Lynch said. “There is definitely a food revolution going on.”

Her discussion series aims to address obstacles and misconceptions, Lynch said. “It’s hard for most people to tell the difference between tabloid nutrition and research physicians.”

The scientific research has lagged behind in the race of popular diets, she said. People are often weary of the next new thing.

Joan Timmons, a second-grade teacher, said because the information isn’t mainstream, people need to take an interest at the local level. “It starts in schools and communities,” she said.

Edman agreed, saying, “It will not be coming from the management level, but from the public,” which will then create the pressure and demand for healthier foods to be more readily available.

Lynch hopes to give residents and their families the tools they need to understand how to support their bodies with a scientific approach.

Discussions such as the one Tuesday night will take place monthly in Room 112 until May and will include a video and snacks. Upcoming dates include Feb. 26, March 19, April 16 and May 28.

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