The vision of my company, Alternative Food Network, is to get people eating for better health. How? We produce content, primarily podcasts right now, that educate people about ‘food as medicine’. From health maintenance to disease management, nutrition is hugely important. Yet, there remains an information gap about the connection between the food that we eat and our health, which the healthcare system is unable to fill.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Esther Garfin the founder and president of Alternative Food Network, a content producer which launched in 2017 to help educate people about eating for a healthy and energetic life. Prior to that, Esther practiced law in the Canadian television industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Since childhood, I have had a few food allergies and then in adulthood developed some eczema. I was told I was an allergic person and there wasn’t much I could do about it. That didn’t sit well with me. However, it wasn’t until I had to change the diet of one of my kids that the connection between food, health and wellness really struck a chord.
I had been practicing entertainment law for fifteen years in the television and digital media industry when I decided I wanted to use my media experience to help people struggling nutritionally and emotionally with food challenges. I started out producing some recipe videos and a few podcasts and later than year incorporated Alternative Food Network.
I now produce 3 podcast series that have as a common thread the exploration of food as medicine: Doctors+, Plant Based Diet and Infused: Cannabis & Your Health and have taken on some hosting duties as well.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
When I decided to start the company, I had no idea that I would end up focusing on podcast production rather than television. I also had absolutely no intention of hosting podcasts. I was much more a ‘behind-the-scenes’ type of person and very content with that. However, without a casting budget, I was unable to hire someone to host so I decided to temporarily fill in that gap. As it turned out, my research and interview skills gained from a career in law helped me produce and host podcasts that provide credible information to our audience.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I thought I would earn revenue sooner. Doesn’t everyone I guess. I didn’t appreciate how long the bootstrapping phase would be. I definitely learned to appreciate the earning capabilities of a practicing lawyer ☺. Seriously though, the lesson I learned is the necessity of patience when starting a new business.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband has helped me with all of Alternative Food Network’s graphic design needs from website design to designing our monthly newsletters. Given that Alternative Food Network lives online, I couldn’t have achieved the look and feel of Alternative Food Network without him. He has also been hugely supportive throughout my entrepreneur journey.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
An examination of various health statistics shows worldwide increases of diabetes, heart disease, food allergies and celiac, just to name a few. The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of wellness is “the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal”. The vision of my company, Alternative Food Network, is to get people eating for better health. How? We produce content, primarily podcasts right now, that educate people about ‘food as medicine’. From health maintenance to disease management, nutrition is hugely important. Yet, there remains an information gap about the connection between the food that we eat and our health, which the healthcare system is unable to fill. In our podcasts you’ll hear from physicians, naturopaths, dieticians etc. who provide credible and science-based information for our audience about food and health as part of their journey to wellness. Healthcare systems are strained worldwide and prevention is a fraction of the cost of dealing with chronic disease later.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Lower your refined sugar intake. Period. A common theme in the podcasts I have produced is inflammation in the body which causes disease, and refined sugar is pro-inflammatory.
- Buying frozen fruits and vegetables is a huge time and cost saver. If you don’t like throwing out spoiled food and don’t want to go to the grocery store every few days, it’s great to be able to just open the freezer for those nutritious fruits and vegetables.
- Soak rice before cooking. Rice can contain heavy metals so soaking prior to cooking is recommended.
- I say this with the utmost respect for physicians, many (not all) did not receive much education in medical school about nutrition. The physicians tell me this all the time on my podcasts. If you’ve heard information on our podcasts or read something on our website and decide it’s time to explore further with a healthcare provider, make sure that healthcare professional is educated in this area. If not, seek out one who is.
- If you’re a chocoholic like me, try dark chocolate. It’s a healthier substitute and in my experience I don’t need much of it to satisfy my chocolate cravings.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The Food as Medicine movement
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Start a business with a partner who has different but complementary skills. One person can’t do everything.
- You will need to dig deep into your resilience tank. There are so many ups and downs.
- Pandemic-proof your business.
- You will think about your own business 24/7. It is all-consuming to be an entrepreneur.
- It’s an uphill road to educate people about food and health because it’s currently still niche.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
All of these issues weave their way into our content. While being vegan and plant-based are not the same, there is a lot of overlap in Alternative Food Network’s popular podcast series “Plant Based Diet”. Another area that gets quite a bit of attention in our podcasts is mental health because of the relationship between diet and mental health. Several of our “Doctors+” episodes explore this link.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
- Facebook Group: Alternative Food Network Group
- Facebook Page: @alternativefoodnetwork
- Instagram: @alternativefoodnetwork
- Alternative Food Network podcasts are on all the major podcast platforms.
Thank you for these fantastic insights!