“I will never look at the food I eat the same way again.”

Those words were spoken by a college student who recently learned through classroom training provided by the Ethical Choices Program about how the food we eat affects not only our health but also the environment and our compassionate natures.

I recently had the opportunity to sit in on an Ethical Choices presentation at the Beaufort County Library on Hilton Head Island. The presentation, given by Carla Golden, the program’s Humane Educator for Beaufort and Chatham counties and a resident of Hilton Head, provided an excellent introduction into the true effects our food choices have.

Based in Atlanta, ECP is currently offered in 16 states as well as in Canada and Australia. Over 30,000 students have participated. It is now being offered at no cost to local high school and college students, as well as to civic groups here in Beaufort and Chatham counties.

Lorena Mucke is the chief executive officer and founder of the program. She has lectured extensively on the subject of what we eat and how it affects the world around us.

In 2006, she began going into the high schools in Atlanta and soon found that her very popular presentations were becoming more and more requested. That’s when she founded the Ethical Choices Program.

Mucke told the Bluffton Sun that she wants to reach as many students as possible. “These people are future decision-makers and will shape life on this planet in very profound ways,” she said. “I envision seeing more teens and young adults taking charge of their food choices and coming together to create a better world.”

As the program title confirms, Mucke said, students are presented with information to make their own choices. “We don’t tell students what they should eat or not eat, or what industries they should or should not support,” she said. “We simply encourage them to think critically about these issues and to make food choices that align with their values and beliefs and according to their individual circumstances.”

Golden recently joined the staff at Ethical Choices, and she has been busy lining up local presentations. She also is lead facilitator of the local Palmetto Plant Eaters Club, which encourages local residents to eat a more healthy plant-based diet.

In addition, she led the recent effort toward bringing South Carolina’s first-ever VegFest to Shelter Cove this past month.

More information about this program can be found at www.ethicalchoicesprogram.org.

J Lanning Smith is a local freelance writer focused on the whole foods, plant-based lifestyle.