Tune your television to food networks these days and it’s hard to avoid shows like Carnival Eats or Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. They feature eateries that serve over-the-top, fat-laden dishes like pizzas and hamburgers loaded with toppings to the max.
Stalwart food network hosts like Martha Stewart, Ina Garten and Giada De Laurentiis use a lot of milk, butter, and flour in their recipes and so those kinds of shows are not very helpful for health conscious viewers, or people with food allergies and sensitivities.
Esther Garfin, founder of the Alternative Food Network (AFN), an online food website, recognized the limitations of the television food shows and decided to create a platform that provides recipes and health information for people with special food needs.
She says AFN will also appeal to people interested in health, because a lot of food demos on TV are too high in fat and sugar as are many online recipes.
Garfin, an entertainment lawyer who has specialized in television and digital media, says she decided to make a career change. “I practised law for 20 years. I felt like I wanted to do something different.”
She says she was interested in a business connected to health, because she has food allergies. “I’m melding together two parts of my life. Television and digital media and my personal experience.”
She says she encounters people with food sensitivities and allergies quite a bit. “It’s pervasive in my world. So many people have food restrictions.”
Garfin also points out that it is well documented that many Ashkenazic Jews suffer with stomach issues like irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease.
On AFN one can see all kinds of videos geared to different dietary needs like recipes that are dairy, gluten, or nut-free.
Subscribers are encouraged to submit recipe videos of their own, Garfin said. “That’s something that differentiates us from others. We welcome user-generated content to create a community.
“People with food allergies or with food restrictions can help each other and people with great heath can share what they know.”
So far Garfin has published the majority of videos she has received. “The videos have to be in English and cannot be too promotional in nature.”
These videos are generally sent as YouTube links which are posted on AFN and its Instagram and Facebook pages. “They get increased traffic on my platforms.”
AFN also offers a professionally produced podcast series on a variety of health topics, like food for brain health, and inflammation and the food connection, she says. “I have produced six podcasts hosted by Dr. Audrey Sasson, a naturopath. I’m about to produce seven more by early summer.”
“I’m at the point where I’ve proven the concept and now I have to make a business out of it.”
While she’s very enthusiastic about the potential prospects for AFN, Garfin admits that running it has its challenges. “After earning an income, it can be tough being an entrepreneur in a pre-revenue company.
“But it’s definitely satisfying and exciting work. I’m creating content that’s useful and educational for people and some of our videos are really entertaining.”
The Alternative Food Network can be viewed online at www.alternativefoodnetwork.com