WebSpotlight: VegFund Helps You Serve Fabulous Vegan Food in Your Community

veganfoodYou’ve been there: the fundraising dinner to help the local humane society help companion animals; the environmental club meeting focused on helping protect wildlife; the human rights fair dedicated to eliminating oppression — all great causes working for a more compassionate, just world, and what’s on the menu? Animals.

Sometimes organizations working for a better world forget about the impact of the food we eat on people, the planet, and especially animals, so it’s great that there’s a new resource available for citizen activists.

VegFund.org helps “fund the distribution of vegan food at local events.”

If you can find an event (preferably one that wouldn’t normally have vegan food) in your community at which you can serve free vegan food, then you can apply to VegFund for possible reimbursement of your food and supply expenses. (See application details.) According to their website, VegFund grants thousands of dollars every week to people organizing vegan food at events.

If you’re someone who has cash to spare, you can also donate to VegFund, so that they can offer grants to other activists.

Image courtesy of JP Puerta via Creative Commons.
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WebSpotlight: JackNorrisRD.com

veganstirfryWhen it comes to nutrition and health information, vegans have to be extra careful — not because it’s more difficult to eat healthfully on a plant-based diet than with an omni diet (because it’s usually actually easier) — but because many people who want to justify their poor eating choices will look for any excuse to dismiss the health benefits of a vegan diet.

Additionally, for vegan advocates who want to spread the good word about the many positive reasons to go veg, it can sometimes be tempting to spread information that hasn’t been properly verified, or to exaggerate health claims a little bit — not through any desire to intentionally deceive, but because of a deep passion for people, animals and the planet.

With a news media that regularly prints health and nutrition stories that contradict each other, that focus on a tiny detail rather than the larger context, and that mislead and sensationalize, it’s important to have veg health information you can feel confident is accurate and credible.

That’s one reason I’m really excited that Jack Norris, Registered Dietician and President of Vegan Outreach (one of my all-time favorite non-profit groups) has started his own blog with “news for vegan advocates and those eating plant-based diets.” Vegan Outreach (VO) is well-known for working hard to ensure that their information is accurate and credible; many of their quotes and statistics come from industry sources. As part of VO, Jack has a website, VeganHealth.org, which provides great information for those interested in the health aspects of a vegan diet. Now Jack’s blog will provide more frequent health information, analyze recent research, and answer questions. His blog has just started, but already he has tackled a great question — one that many people have asked me: “How can I get plant protein without soy?”

If you’re interested in or concerned about vegan health, be sure to bookmark this blog or subscribe to his RSS feed.

~ Marsha

Thanks to Vegan.com for the heads up.

Bill Moyers Interview with Michael Pollan on Food Policy

moyerspollanA couple weeks ago, Bill Moyers sat down for an interview with food policy journalist Michael Pollan, who is the author of books such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma (which I’m reading now) and In Defense of Food.

In the debate about who will be the next Secretary of Agriculture, some have advocated Pollan for the position. He has become outspoken about food issues and the need for a major transformation of America’s food system, and in October he published “Farmer in Chief,”  an open letter to the next president about food issues, in the New York Times.

In the interview, Pollan discusses the connection between industrial food production and the health crisis (rising rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, etc.), energy independence, global warming, and national security. His suggestions for how the Obama Administration should take action regarding food policy include:

  • Reducing and eliminating some food subsidies (especially for crops like corn and soy)
  • Transferring oversight of the School Lunch Program from the USDA to the Education or Health and Human Services Departments
  • Decentralizing our food supply
  • Encouraging locally grown food (he advocates a White House Chef and a Farmer who can provide locally-grown, organic food to the White House
  • Applying strategies such as farmers’ markets in urban areas
  • Building an alternative food economy.

Pollan also offers suggestions for actions citizens can take to make a positive difference in the food arena, including:

  • Thinking “of the dollars you spend on a food in a different way” – vote with your fork for food systems and strategies that are sustainable and restorative
  • Voting with your vote and voice for food systems and strategies that are restorative
  • Cooking from scratch more often
  • Starting your own garden

It’s an interesting interview. Be sure to check it out.

MOGOing Around Portland: Get a Yummy Vegan Meal and Help the Animals

If you live in the Portland, Oregon, area, and you’re looking for a way to fill your tummy with tasty goodness AND help animals, check out Apron Activists.  Started by vegan food guru Isa Chandra Moskowitz (author of Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and other delectable cookbooks) and Herbivore Clothing Company co-founder Michelle Schweggmann, Apron Activists host occasional dinners to raise funds for organizations that help animals. The next dinner is Friday, December 12 at Sweetpea Bakery (1205 SE Stark). Doors open at 7:30 pm and dinner begins at 8 pm. The menu is a Jamaican theme:

Appetizer
Plantain Rice Paper Rolls
Rice noodles, sweet plantains and toasted pumpkin seeds in a fresh rice paper roll with chili dipping sauce

Soup
Jamaican Curry With Roti Bread
Sweet potatoes, kidney beans and baby limas in a rich Jamaican spiced coconut curry served with flat bread for dipping

Entree
Jerk Tofu And Yucca
Marinated and grilled jerk tofu a green beans served over mashed yucca and topped with a fresh mango salsa

Dessert
Pumpkin Rum Bread Pudding
A lush and spicy pumpkin bread pudding spiked with rum, served warm with vanilla ice cream

Ginger Tea will be served. Please bring your own beer and wine.

Tickets are on a sliding scale, from $40 – $100 each.  According to the info, “Diners who pay 60 dollars or more will also be receiving a really neat bag of holiday goodies that will include fresh baked cookies. 100% of the proceeds go to the Family Dogs shelter.”

The lucky animal organization this time is Family Dogs New Life Shelter, a no-kill dog shelter.

Find out more.

Image courtesy of Apron Activists.

Take a Bite Out of Global Warming: Go Vegan!

burningplanet

Reading about the connection between eating animals and global climate change in the media has become an almost weekly occurrence. Yet Westerners are still extremely reluctant to give up their burgers, nuggets and shakes, and government and organizations are still primarily focusing on other contributors to global warming, such as the impact of transportation. Because this is still such a controversial topic, it’s important to be well-informed. Below are a sampling of research reports and news articles that have covered the topic.

Another Inconvenient Truth: Meat is a Global Warming Issue
Commentary from E Magazine that includes references to several studies about the connection between meat & global warming. Includes a link to their 2002 feature on reasons for environmentalists to go veg.

Climate Change: The Inconvenient Truth About What We Eat
Looks at the role agriculture plays in global warming and advocates a plant-based diet.

Cool Foods Campaign
A new campaign from the Center for Food Safety. Learn about steps you can take to reduce your “food print.”

Diet, Energy & Global Warming
A 2005 report from the University of Chicago compares the impact of our dietary choices and reveals the
significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions of eating animal products.

Factory Farming & Environment
A list of links to news stories about meat eating and the environment.

Hoofprints: Livestock & Its Environmental Impacts
A report from Friends of the Earth about the impact of livestock production on the environment.

The Impact of Animal Agriculture on Global Warming and Climate Change
A research report from the Humane Society of the U.S.

Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options
The 2007 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that reported about the enormous impact of animal agriculture on global warming.

Meat & the Environment
Quick info on the impact of eating meat on land, water, global warming & other environmental issues.

Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America
The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production has released a report (2008) about the impact of animal agriculture on health, the environment, animal welfare and family farms.

Rethinking the Meat Guzzler
A New York Times article about the environmental impact of eating meat.

Take a Bite Out of Climate Change
Information, analysis and more about the connection between the climate crisis and what’s on our plates.
(from Anna Lappe & the Small Planet Institute)

~ Marsha

Tips for Terrific Thanksgiving Celebrations, Part 3: 7 Tips for the Vegan Hosting Meat Eaters

If you’re a vegan cook having omni guests over for Thanksgiving, it can be a bit worrisome to wonder if they’re going to pre-judge the food before they’ve even walked in the door. For omnivores traversing the path of a vegan-only meal for the first time, dining with vegans — especially for a big holiday like Thanksgiving –- can provoke feelings of trepidation. They may be asking: “What on earth are they going to feed us? How’s it going to taste? Will I starve?”  You as the vegan host want everyone to have a good time and enjoy the delicious food, so, here are a few tips for making sure that happens.

  1. Ask guests about food restrictions or dietary preferences. Just as you’d want them to be aware of your special needs, be sure to ask them about theirs.
  2. Make dishes you KNOW omnis will find delicious and enjoyable. You can’t please everyone’s palate, but a special day like Thanksgiving is not the time to experiment with something new.
  3. Consider providing a faux turkey entree AND other entrees. Tofurky and other faux meats are often either love ’em or hate ’em kinds of foods; don’t assume that your omni guests will find them as tantalizing as you do. However, if your omni friends have a major attachment to a turkey as the center point of the holiday, they may be pleasantly surprised to try one of the faux options.
  4. Be sure to include some traditional favorites. If your omni guests find some of the foods that they’re “used to” at your Thanksgiving feast (mashed potatoes, pies, cranberry something or other, etc.), it may help them to feel more relaxed about trying vegan dishes.
  5. Spend some time on the ambiance. You don’t have to create a centerpiece reproduction of the “First Thanksgiving” a la Martha Stewart, but some natural decorations that evoke thoughts of harvest, and a well-laid table can show them you’re serious about having a good time.
  6. Refrain from comments about people who are serving animals and/or their products for Thanksgiving (“Thank you, Creator, that we can all come together and not have to endure looking at some poor tortured creature.”) Make your omni guests feel just as welcomed and appreciated as your veg friends.
  7. Relax. If you’ve done your best to provide tasty food and a good time, the rest is up to them.

~ Marsha

Tips for Terrific Thanksgiving Celebrations, Part 2: 9 Tips for the Vegetarian Guest

Sometimes enjoying holiday meals with both omnivores and vegetarians in attendance can be as trying as a toddler birthday party when Pokey the Clown is a no-show and the dog threw up cake in your shoe. Fortunately many people have put time and thought into this very issue, and there are plenty of helpful tips available to ensure a smooth and satisfying celebration. Here’s part 2 of a multi-part series on successful tips for Thanksgivings when the veg and non-veg mix it up.

When you’re a vegan invited to Thanksgiving dinner at the home of someone you don’t know well (or maybe even someone you do know well), one of the main questions bouncing around in your brain are: “Will there be anything I can eat besides a limp piece of lettuce and some plain bread?” and “Is everyone going to be treating me like I have cooties?” If you’re proactive and considerate, you’ll have nothing to fear. Make use of these

9 TIPS FOR THE VEGETARIAN GUEST:

  1. Tell your host as far in advance as possible about your dietary needs. Be specific.
  2. Have plenty of ideas to suggest to your host for both traditional dishes and not-so-traditional options, and make sure that your suggestions are reliably tasty to omnivores. The last thing you want is one bad experience of veg food that will color people’s opinions for a lifetime.
  3. Offer to help plan the menu and prepare some veggie dishes. They’ll welcome your tried and true fancy fare. (Make sure you don’t experiment with a new recipe that omnivores haven’t yet raved over.)
  4. Be sure you’re familiar with those substitutions that veganize any dish (examples: egg replacer, non-hydrogenated margarine, non-dairy ice creams, cheeses and milks, etc.). That way, when you’re host says “But we ALWAYS have Aunt Cici’s sweet potato pie!” you can whip out those quick and easy minor adjustments that will keep everyone happy and overfed.
  5. If cooking isn’t your thing, check out the deli at your local natural foods store. There are often tasty veg options (though the prices can be a little stomach-lurching). Or, pick up some fresh fruit and make a fruit salad, or drop by the bakery and pick up some fresh-baked bread and specialty vegan butters or jams.
  6. If you’re concerned there won’t be anything you can eat, eat something ahead of time. You can always nibble on the bread or sample the salad, or just focus on the good company. (It’s best to have a little something on your plate so that people aren’t distracted by the fact that you’re not eating/not eating much.) You can also bring a few snacks (fresh veggies, veggie turkey deli slices, etc.), that will blend in with the other foods and put those on your plate to munch on.
  7. Limit your expectations. Even though veg food is incredibly tasty, it can be scary cooking differently than you’re used to. And, as vegans know, many people are misinformed about what “veg” means. So, don’t expect a 9-course meal. Appreciate that your host is trying. (And remember, that if you’ve communicated clearly — well in advance, and you’re bringing multiple veg dishes, you should be able to look forward to a good time.)
  8. Unless asked, keep your reasons for being vegetarian to yourself. Keep any discussion about your “veg-ness” minimal and positive. A holiday occasion isn’t the time to lecture others or to call attention to the poor tortured, slaughtered creatures being served.
  9. Fair or not, all vegetarians may be judged by your behavior. As author Tiffany Reslor says, “Being a gracious guest reflects well on all vegetarians.” So, practice your best compassionate communication skills and don’t keep looking at the giant dead thing in the middle of the table and rolling your eyes or making disgusted sounds.

~ Marsha