The Future of Protein Production Summit Speaker Profile: Karyn Knox, Chief Development & Partnerships Officer, Educated Choices Program
Karyn Knox serves as the Chief Development & Partnerships Officer for the Educated Choices Program, which provides free science-based education worldwide concerning the impact of food choices and our current food system on human and planetary health
With a background in wellness, throughout her career Karyn Knox has helped many people take control of their health and lead more active lives through exercise and proper nutrition. "It was very rewarding work but only allowed me to reach a small number of people annually," she explains, ahead of her slot at The Future of Protein Production Summit on 21/22/23 February 2023, during which she will take part in a panel discussion about how companies in alternative proteins can attract and retain the right talent. "By entering the non-profit sector and later joining the Educated Choices Program, I am now part of an initiative that reaches millions of people globally and helps them understand the benefits of making plant-forward food choices. Our work not only impacts the health of students and communities worldwide but also improves the health of the planet we all share."
We have reached more than 2.6 million students and community members with this valuable and life-changing information and have a proven success rate of over 50% in empowering participants to make healthful and environmentally sustainable dietary changes
ECP is an academic non-profit organization offering free science-based education programs around the globe discussing the impacts of food choices on human and planetary health. "To date, we have reached more than 2.6 million students and community members with this valuable and life-changing information and have a proven success rate of over 50% in empowering participants to make healthful and environmentally sustainable dietary changes," Knox continues.
"Our programs are delivered via digital presentations and accompanying materials designed specifically for ages 12 through adulthood. As an additional part of our commitment to providing the public with the facts about alternative proteins and their many benefits, we have launched a website called WhatisCultivatedMeat.com that explores the science of cellular agriculture and cultivated meat, answering the most frequently asked questions by teachers, students, and the public.
"Education is the foundation upon which to build a more sustainable, healthful and just food system and ECP’s mission is to provide that foundation."
This is important for Knox as she feels that the connection between our current food system and environmental crises such as climate change has only really recently come to the fore and been accepted. Moreover, the relationship between animal agriculture and both personal and public health struggles has also been considered taboo to discuss for many years.
We have the data to prove that when people are provided scientific information regarding the impact of their food choices on their health, that of others and the environment, they rise to the occasion
Thankfully, she notes, these connections are becoming acknowledged more and more, albeit she feels we still have a long way to go. "The importance of education in the movement is often still overlooked. We have the data to prove that when people are provided scientific information regarding the impact of their food choices on their health, that of others and the environment, they rise to the occasion and make positive dietary changes that support the products being developed in the alternative proteins space. These plant-forward choices also help to create the demand needed in the food-service industry to ensure the success of healthier and more sustainable menu options being rolled out on a large scale."
A rollout on a mass scale is a necessity, though, and a shift toward a more plant-centric food system will have countless benefits, Knox believes. "It will eliminate many risks associated with food-borne illnesses and dramatically decrease the risks of personal health issues such as cardiovascular disease, many cancers, and more. In addition, a reduction in demand for animal products will lead to environmental improvements, including a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and water pollution, leading to an increase in biodiversity. A shift toward a food system primarily based on plants and alternative proteins holds power to create a more just, compassionate, healthy and sustainable world.
Are consumers actually willing to embrace this new way of eating? Knox reports that she hears a strong desire to implement more plant-forward options in ECP's work with schools and military personnel. "The issue we consistently hear about, which often holds back alternative protein initiatives in food-service environments, is the need for more options that meet the required dietary guidelines. I am happy to see that companies are working hard to produce clean, convenient and nutrient-dense products to meet those needs, but until they are widely available and at a cost that also fills the requirements, the availability of plant-forward alternatives will be limited in many settings."
If we want the masses to get on board with new food technologies, we need to ensure that they understand how they will personally benefit from doing so. This starts with building an educational foundation and then backing it up with time-of-purchase reinforcement and products that meet their needs
With health being the number one motivator for most of society to consider alternative proteins, Knox believes the movement will need to hold wellness as its primary focus in product development and marketing. "If we want the masses to get on board with new food technologies, we need to ensure that they understand how they will personally benefit from doing so," she says. "This starts with building an educational foundation and then backing it up with time-of-purchase reinforcement and products that meet their needs.
"We at the Educated Choices Program are scaling up to meet the global demand for food choice education that we and others in the alternative protein sector have created! The link between our food system and human and planetary health is becoming more accepted among leaders, along with the acknowledgment that educated communities make more mindful choices. This leads to a need for free programs like ours in schools, universities, community centers and other venues worldwide that provide the scientific facts to support these links. We offer programs in three languages and have reached millions of current and future consumers in 15 countries. We have the ability to increase our impact exponentially and will continue to work tirelessly to do so in the coming years by expanding our reach and our offerings. With the support of others in our movement who share our mission to create a better food system by way of consumer demand, we can do just that!"
Collaboration, generally, will be crucial to ensure the alternative protein sector's success, Knox concludes. "Luckily, I am seeing a ton of it across many industry segments! My attendance at various food technology conferences and plant-based expos this year has shown a desire from large corporations and small start-ups to work together to create unique new products. I am also seeing a high level of teamwork between non-profit and for-profit organizations to educate society on the benefits of new food technologies and to appeal to their motivators to purchase and consume alternative proteins.
The Future of Protein Production Summit takes place virtually on 21/22/23 February 2023. Tickets are on sale now so to register to hear Karyn and more than 80 other speakers, 50 presentations, eight panel discussions, and three start up pitch symposiums, click here
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