( File Photo )

The Southeast Produce Council will combine a bit of star power with medical expertise, with Dr. Travis Stork scheduled to deliver the keynote address at this year’s Southern Exposure conference and expo March 9 at the Walt Disney Swan & Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Fla.

Stork is an Emmy-nominated host of the award-winning talk show “The Doctors,” and a board-certified emergency medicine physician. 

He graduated magna cum laude from Duke University as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and earned his medical degree with honors from the University of Virginia. 

Stork said he is passionate about teaching people simple methods to prevent illness before it happens with the goal of maximizing the enjoyment of a healthy life.

That is central to the message he will bring to Southern Exposure, he said.

“Let food be your medicine and not your poison,” he said. “Fresh produce is the best way that I know to accomplish that. Each and every day, I try to fill my plate with various colors of the rainbow — the natural colors of fruits and vegetables, not food dyes that we’ve become so used to.”

Stork said the question of whether consumers had made much progress in including more fruits and vegetables in their diets was tricky.

“In some ways, yes, because many people are including more fruits and veggies in their diets, but there are still far too many people whose only produce intake might be the lettuce and tomato on a burger and the side of fries.”

Consumers have more healthy dietary options than ever before, and that’s a sign of progress, Stork noted.

However, he said “we still have a very long way to go when it comes to getting the majority of people to focus on fresh fruits and vegetables as a staple in their diet.”

Stork said Southern Exposure is an important forum for spreading his message.

“As a doctor I can preach all day long about the importance of including produce in the diet, but we live in a free market society and product marketing, packaging and availability are what drives so many decisions by consumers,” he said. 

“That’s why an event like this can do so much good. I do believe we are at an inflection point because as more healthcare providers push for their patients to eat ‘real food,’ and industry insiders lead the way in pushing produce sales upward, we all win.”

Stork is a New York Times No. 1 best-selling author of “The Doctor’s Diet,” “The Doctor’s Diet Cookbook,” “The Lean Belly Prescription” and “The Doctor Is In: A 7-Step Prescription for Optimal Wellness.” 

His latest book is “The Lose Your Belly Diet — Change Your Gut, Change Your Life,” released in 2016.

“The Doctors” won the 2010 Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show/Informative and has earned six nominations in the category. 

In addition, Stork and his co-hosts received consecutive Emmy nominations for Outstanding Talk Show Host in 2011 and 2012.

Produce marketers say they look forward to hearing Stork’s talk.

“Health and nutrition are key drivers for increasing produce consumption and the speaker may have relevant strategies on how we can better communicate with consumers on these topics,” said Gary Caloroso, regional business development director with Los Angeles-based Giumarra Cos.

Caitlin Klueber, business development representative for the Southeast at Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, agreed.

“It seems his remarks about integrating fresh produce into a healthy lifestyle will fit well into the overall agenda that includes other health professionals,” said Klueber, who works in Oppy’s Tampa, Fla., office. 

“I feel it is a bit of a departure from the more typically industry-focused speaker line-up we’ve seen at SEPC in the past, and am eager to see how the sessions unfold.”