Real Food for Kids: Changing the way we eat, one school at a time

On March 17, 2018,  Real Food for Kids  (RFFK) hosted its 6th Annual Culinary Competition & Wellness Expo at a secondary school in Alexandria, Virginia with excellent support from the community. This innovative educational outreach event had one singular objective – to engage students in the issue of school food.

“With our youth as leaders, we seek to gain insight into potential school nutrition solutions as our students share their creativity and enthusiasm in a competitive format.”

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Real Food for Kids began as a voice for improving school food and is now a trusted partner within the school system and surrounding communities across the United States. RFFK has earned a deserved reputation for providing valuable programs for students and their families through a positive and collaborative approach.

The RFFK mission:

“To collaborate with school communities to elevate the quality and character of school food, develop and deliver programs that advance literacy in nutrition and health, and engage students, parents, and schools in building a culture of health that spreads to their home and communities.”

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Attracting 275 parents, educators, and community members, this Culinary Competition, open to all middle and high school student teams, taught students about healthy eating, encouraged teamwork, and highlighted student culinary talents. Teams competed to create a lunch that met USDA guidelines for school meals and participated in a showcase of dishes that could be adapted for school use.

This event aimed to achieve the following objectives:

  • Engage students in the process of school food so that they learn about the nutritional guidelines and cost implications of creating a lunch entree.
  • Provide opportunities for students to meet professional chefs and learn about career pathways in the culinary field.
  • Secure a commitment to have the winning entree put on the school food menu in Fairfax County in the 2018–2019 school year.
  • Highlight the growth in demand for vegetarian/vegan options in school food and why this is important for good health.
  • Educate culinary students and attendees on health topics in a plenary format that provides information and resources in a friendly way.

How it worked

  1. Students entered a team in the Lunch Competition (“Viva Vegetarian”) or the Showcase (“Back 2 Basics Breakfast” or “Snack”).
  2. Teams in both categories were challenged to create a delicious and appealing school food item with an emphasis on nutritional balance.
  3. Real Food for Kids selected up to 10 teams (2–4 students) for the Competition and up to 10 teams (2–4 students) for the Showcase category.
  4. The Expo plenary focused on creating links between the cafeteria, the classroom, and the home to build healthful eating habits.

The event received plenty of enthusiastic feedback, and the teams enjoyed the experience.

“The challenge to develop a vegetarian dish was really fun. We eat a lot of vegetarian dishes at home. My dad’s black bean burger was the inspiration for our dish, but we switched it up with our own spices and added the guacamole. We got second place so the judges must have really liked it.” – Henry, from Sandburg Middle School

The Results!

  • Excellent community support. Real Food For Kids received an incredible amount of feedback from community leaders about the event itself and the work that they’ve been doing to increase the amount of healthy food in schools and engaging students in the process.
  • The demand for additional information by participants regarding vegan and vegetarian options was notably higher this year than in prior years, and organizers believe people came specifically to obtain this information.
  • Five school districts and D.C. Central Kitchen (who has a contract with 15 schools in the District of Columbia) will be putting one of the winning entries on their school menu, which will reach nearly 350,000 students in the region! Discussions are also underway with other school districts to do the same, which would impact an additional 81,000 students.

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“Each year this event delights and surprises us. We see so much creativity from the students and so much enthusiasm to participate. It’s very clear to us that engaging students in the process of developing dishes for the school food menu is a win-win. They are the consumers – where better to get recipes that will be successful than from the kids eating them? When you hear from a team member things like ‘I would so eat this’ about their own dish, you know you’re headed in the right direction.” – Mary Porter, Director of Programs

Consider hosting an event like this Culinary Challenge in your area. VegFund may be able to support you. Check out our program guidelines for more information and apply for a VegFund grant today!

Be Plant Strong: Why more athletes are harnessing the power of plants

February has been a busy month in the world of sports with the U.S. Super Bowl LII kicking things off to an energetic start, followed closely by the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. With these events on the radar and the word  “vegan” being paired with “athlete” more than ever before, we thought we’d take a look at the role plant-based living is playing in the world of sports and fitness and, in particular,  competitive sports.

You’ll find vegan athletes, from amateur to elite, in just about any sport you can name — tennis, running, soccer, boxing, bodybuilding, snowboarding, surfing, cycling, martial arts, skating — each athlete with their own story about how a vegan diet is raising their game on the playing field.

In the run-up to this year’s Super Bowl, we heard about the growing number of NFL players adopting vegan diets, inspired by former lineman David Carter who went vegan in 2014 and has been advocating for plant-based diets ever since. And, in the very recent 2018 Winter Olympics, we saw World Champion pairs figure skater and vegan of ten years, Meagan Duhamel take Gold, showcasing the benefits of a vegan lifestyle to a worldwide audience.

To mark this month of major sporting events, VegFund spoke with four plant-based influencers who are harnessing the power of plants to fuel their sports and fitness goals.

Meagan Duhamel, pairs figure skater

2018 Winter Olympics Gold Medallist pairs figure skater, Meagan Duhamel not only showed the world just what the power of plants can achieve, but she also set a wonderful example during her time in South Korea by rescuing a dog destined for the meat trade and urging fellow athletes to do the same.

2011台北ISU四大洲花式滑冰錦標賽-雙人花式滑冰短曲-CAN_Meagan DUHAMEL+Eric RADFORD by YU CHIH-WEI Reproduced Under Creative Commons Copyright License

Image Source: 2011台北ISU四大洲花式滑冰錦標賽-雙人花式滑冰短曲-CAN_Meagan DUHAMEL+Eric RADFORD by YU CHIH-WEI
(Reproduced Under Creative Commons
Copyright License)

  •  What role do you envision plant-based diets playing in the future of professional sports?

“I hope that more and more athletes will focus on plant-based diets. Dairy is causing so much inflammation that prevents athletes from properly recovering, and I truly hope all people, not just athletes, realize that there is no need for animals in their diet, just nutritiously dense whole foods.”

  • What was the main challenge you faced in your sporting career when switching to a plant-based diet?

“The main challenge I faced was travel. When I am at home, it’s easy because I know all the health food stores and restaurants in my area. It was difficult at first to travel, but then I discovered the HappyCow App, and since then I have the opportunity to find some of the greatest veggie places in the world!”

Find out how this elite vegan athlete prepared to win Gold!

Anthony Mullally, rugby player

Ireland international rugby player Anthony Mullally (aka Vegan Warrior) has been vegan for more than a year now, motivated by his concern about the environmental impact of factory farming and after having already cut out meat from his diet for health reasons. Mullally initially worried that going vegan might affect his performance on the field; however, he is already reporting the positive benefits of this lifestyle after experiencing his most consistent playing season ever.

Image Source: Anthony Mullally

Image Source: Anthony Mullally

  • What was the first positive benefit you noticed, physically or mentally, in your training and performance once you switched to a plant-based diet?

“Mentally I started to a feel a lot clearer — it’s hard to describe, but less busy. Physically I felt less tired, especially in the mornings when all the lads at training are relying on coffee to get them through, I feel I don’t need it. I also started to recover more quickly between workouts, and I’ve hit new personal best scores in the gym.”

  • What role do you envision plant-based diets playing in the future of professional sports?

“One of my goals is to make veganism more acceptable in professional sports. There has already been a massive shift in consciousness, with more and more people being open to it, and I think it will continue to become more common.”

Anastasia Zinchenko, powerlifter and bodybuilder

International-level vegan powerlifter, bodybuilder, and biochemist, Anastasia Zinchenko applies the power of science and plants to fuel her sport and to support others in their fitness goals.

Image Source: Anastasia Zinchenko

Image Source: Anastasia Zinchenko

  • What was the main challenge you faced in your sporting career when you switched to a plant-based diet?

“There are so many different opinions and influences on the internet. All of the sources state something different, which can be really confusing. For this reason, all the information I share online is based on scientific research and accounts for individuals’ differences and preferences. I share this information with the community to make it easier for people to decide what to eat and shed some light on that confusion and the uncertainties that are currently present online.”

  • What role do you envision plant-based diets will play in the future of professional sports?

“I hope that in the future more athletes will become vegan to show that top performance is possible following a vegan diet, which causes the least harm possible to the animals, the environment, and to oneself. I think that vegan athletes are great role models and advocates for a healthier lifestyle that causes less harm.”

Vlad Ixel, endurance runner

Champion vegan ultramarathon runner Vlad Ixel started running in 2012 and turned vegan shortly after. He has had tremendous success in the sport over a short period of time competing and thriving on a plant-based diet.       

Image Source: Vlad Ixel

Image Source: Vlad Ixel

  • What was the main challenge you faced in your sporting career when switching to a plant-based diet?

“I think the main challenge was finding time to eat all the calories that I needed — most days I eat between 4000–5000 calories and, if you want to keep your diet clean, that’s a lot of time spent eating — so I try to find the right mix of raw foods for breakfast and lunch, and heavier cooked foods for dinner.”

  • What was the first positive benefit you noticed, physically or mentally, in your training and performance once you switched to a plant-based diet?

“I would have to say it was the improved recovery — I have been training seven days a week for the past five and a half years and I don’t know too many non-vegans who can do that. I have also competed in over 150 running races, of which I have won 50%. Since going vegan I have been sleeping better and have more energy, plus I’m a happier person — looking back to when I used to eat meat, I used to get angry really quickly but since switching to plant-based foods, I am a lot more relaxed and not so easily aggravated.

After being vegan for a few months, I also got to see that there is a lot more to it than just my own personal increased recovery. That there are millions of animals that die and suffer every single day. I know that I will never have any animal products even if I stop running.”

Are you a vegan health and fitness advocate?

Check out these recently released, dynamic documentaries on plant-based eating and sports. James Cameron’s The Game Changers and Santino Panico’s From the Ground Up are already exciting the public about the health and fitness benefits of plant-based eating. And, keep your eyes open for the release of Running For Good, which follows world-record marathon runner Fiona Oakes in her attempt to compete in the “toughest foot race on earth.”

Consider screening one of these groundbreaking vegan sports documentaries in your community. VegFund is eager to support vegan advocates in sharing these powerful films. Apply for grant funding to cover the film’s license as well as certain event-related costs.

VegFund would like to thank Meagan Duhamel, Anthony Mullaly, Anastasia Zinchenko, and Vlad Ixel for taking time out from their busy training schedules to speak with us and share their valuable insights on how the power of plants have helped them fuel their sporting achievements.

What We Learned About You: VegFund’s Survey of Animal Activists

Just who is your average animal rights activist? VegFund wanted to find out — and what we found out is that there is no “average” animal rights activist — you are a diverse and highly active bunch!

In August 2017, VegFund surveyed vegan activists to learn more about your backgrounds and experiences in vegan advocacy. The results will help guide us in refining and expanding our grant programming, resources, and systems to support your excellent work. We hope you will find them interesting too.

VegFund distributed the survey at the Animal Rights National Conference in Washington, D.C., and the International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg. We also emailed the survey to more than 3,600 individuals on our email list and posted it on our website and through our social media channels (Facebook and Twitter). The following is a summary of the survey results as of September 11, 2017, at which time we had received 429 responses.

What We Learned

The Basics

Locations: VegFund supports vegan advocates worldwide with grant funding and online resources. As a U.S.-based organization, the majority of our grantees are located in the United States, but we have an ever-growing international base of grantees.

This map indicates where our grantees are located, followed by a “top three” overview (country, city, U.S. state).

Q3 Location

Top three countries:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada

Top three cities:

  • Toronto, Canada
  • New York, United States
  • Cape Town, South Africa

Top three U.S .states:

  • California
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania/Florida

Age: Activism is not just for the young crowd. Eighty-eight percent of our respondents are between the ages of 26 and 55-plus.

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Twenty-seven percent of survey respondents were millennials (age range 26–40), but we were pleasantly surprised to see a broad range of ages represented, with 60% of respondents being over the age of 40.

Gender: Females appear to be the more active gender in vegan outreach (72% of respondents), which is consistent with other findings in the AR/vegan movement — either that or they are more active in completing surveys (“self-selection” bias). Twenty-six percent of respondents were male. Let’s boost that number!

Vegan and Advocate Identity

Now, let’s dive into some of the interesting stuff. What aspects of vegan advocacy inspire and motivate vegan activists?

The insights that follow are an overview of some of the key questions from this survey, but they are not inclusive of all data gathered.

Path to becoming vegan

A large majority of respondents were motivated by animal welfare concerns (88%) on their path to becoming vegan, and most transitioned from being vegetarian to vegan (74%). A significant number of people (32%) were also motivated by health and environmental concerns. We anticipate that health and environmental concerns will become a greater motivating factor as the significant effects of animal agriculture and meat consumption in both areas continue to gain publicity.

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What you like best about being vegan

Using a word cloud, we generated a display of 1100 open-ended responses to the question “What are three words or phrases that capture what you like best about being vegan.” While the word cloud is hardly analytical, it’s certainly powerful in conveying the values around your vegan lifestyle and activism.

Q14 Word Cloud - What liked best about being vegan

The words “compassion,” “health,” and “animal” appeared more than 100 times. Many statements expressed emotions such as happiness, love, empathy, and anger, while others noted data or facts. Environmental and personal health and the concept of living one’s values also appeared a number of times.

Vegan values

We asked activists to rate how well they identify with each of the following three statements (most strongly, somewhat strongly, least strongly).

Eating vegan food makes me feel healthy and has improved my daily life. This aspect of my lifestyle makes me feel healthier and good about myself Most strongly 12%
Somewhat strongly 22%
Least strongly 66%
Adopting a vegan lifestyle lets me be a conscious consumer. My daily purchases reflect my values regarding climate change and animals. I’m proud of this aspect of my life and know that I’m living my values with my dollars and behaviors. Most strongly 45%
Somewhat strongly 48%
Least strongly 7%
Being a vegan means I’m part of a community that cares about health, the earth, and animals. My veganism is part of my identity; I love spending time fighting for animal rights and environmental protection. Most strongly 54%
Somewhat strongly 28%
Least strongly 17%

Fifty-four percent of our grantees emphasized the importance of being part of a compassionate community and highlighted their passion for spending time speaking up for animals and the environment.

These responses point to the importance of community and sharing as primary motivators for our grantees’ veganism and advocacy efforts.

Grantee Advocacy Interests

The survey asked a number of questions relating specifically to the outreach activities and interests of current and potential VegFund grantees.

What kinds of activism are you engaged in?

Activists surveyed are involved in diverse types of outreach activities — from event organizing, leafleting and food sampling to online campaigns, screenings and video outreach, and everything else in-between!

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We learned that vegfests are the most popular form of community outreach used by respondents, which is a supporting factor in VegFund’s project to launch a vegfest community of practice — the Vegfest Organizers’ Network.

If you are involved in vegfests and would like more information on the Vegfest Organizers’ Network, please join our mailing list. The vision of this community is to mine and share the extensive practical knowledge of vegfest organizers. Lessons learned will serve as the basis for trainings, technical assistance, and resource development funded by VegFund with the goal of increasing the quality and quantity of vegfests everywhere.

Other popular forms of outreach fall within the core VegFund grant program areas, which we were pleased to see.

How many animal-right-related events do you participate in annually as an activist?

Forty-five percent of respondents participate in 10 or more outreach events each year. That’s impressive stuff!

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How would you describe your feelings about activism/advocacy?

We asked activists to select the statements below that most apply to them regarding how they feel about their activist work. The need for more time to devote to activism (50%) and adequate funding (55%) rated high (help us spread the word that VegFund is dedicated to supporting vegan activists through grant funding!) Forty-four percent of respondents indicated that engaging in online communities for connection and growth is important to them. Twenty-nine percent prefer to volunteer as their form of activism, and some individuals (12%) prefer not to engage in one-on-one activism or find activism daunting.

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Inspiring the Future Generations of Vegans and Advocates

We asked respondents what they think are the best ways to inspire others to get involved in vegan activism. The responses were thoughtful and detailed, and — because it was an open-ended question — not simple to summarize. Some of the themes that emerge are empowering others; providing skills, mentorship, and training; making it fun, inclusive, and simple to take action; focusing on the impact of activism; sharing success stories; meeting farm animals; creating volunteer opportunities; avoiding evangelizing; and meeting people where they are/finding what resonates with them.

In your opinion, who are the three audiences most amenable to adopting a vegan lifestyle?

When asked to consider what audiences are most easy to persuade in terms of adopting a vegan lifestyle, respondents highlighted the following:

  • people motivated by animal suffering – 81%
  • people motivated by health or environment – 61%
  • people who are already vegetarian – 60%
  • anyone who will listen – 26%
  • people of a specific age group (please specify) – 22%
  • people in urban areas – 21%
  • those who know nothing about veganism – 8%
  • other (please specify) – 36%

The “other” responses were varied, but these responses suggested that people under 25 years of age are considered the most amenable to adopting a vegan lifestyle, which is consistent with other research in this area.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to complete this survey. Your thoughtful feedback will help guide VegFund’s program development in support of our current and new grantees.

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All percentages given are in relation to the number of respondents to the survey and number of responses allowed per question.

 

 

The Anti-Dairy Campaign that Caused a Stir

Let’s keep the conversation going!

Back in 2000, Indian Union Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi sparked controversy with her anti-dairy campaign. A passionate animal rights activist and environmentalist, Gandhi was met with attacks from religious leaders and even sympathetic members of the public. But Gandhi had modern science behind her and researchers supporting her stance.

“The ICMR did research on milk for seven years and took thousands of samples from across India. What did they find? Large amounts of DDT, poisonous pesticides called HCH. Under the food adulteration act only 0.01mg/kg of HCH is allowed. They found 5.7 mg as an average.”

Celebrity Pritish Nandy spoke with Gandhi in the April of 2000 to find out more about the reasoning behind her anti-dairy campaign. This interview put a spotlight on an important political figure and activist in India at a time when these issues were emerging at a national level. In Nandy’s interview, Gandhi emphasized three main reasons for eliminating dairy in the human diet: the effect on human health, animal cruelty, and the pollutants found in milk.

“It is not by chance that a calf is no longer called bachda in India. It is called katra, which means one who is to be killed.”

Image: Dairy calf at Edgar's Mission Animal Sanctuary, Australia

Image: Dairy calf at Edgar’s Mission Animal Sanctuary, Australia

Gandhi has continued to write about dairy and why it’s important to eliminate it from our diets. In a more recent article, she discussed the specific proteins found in milk and their effect on human health.

Recent USDA data on U.S. dairy consumption indicate that dairy consumption declined by 22% between the years 2000 and 2016. This outlines some of the reasons for the decline and states that the increased availability of plant-based milk alternatives is a contributing factor. In response to this, we are seeing major international dairy brands, such as Danone, entering the plant-based arena in order to be a player in this emerging market.

Over 15 years ago, Gandhi addressed this important topic with a campaign that brought issues with dairy consumption to the public eye across India. The discussion surrounding the human consumption of dairy is a global one, and it gains momentum every day. Gandhi’s bold move to spearhead this sensitive topic as far back as 2000 is inspiring. This conversation needed a kick-start back then, and it’s one that we must continue at the global level.

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi is Chairperson of India’s leading animal welfare and protection organization, People For Animals (PFA). PFA works to rescue and rehabilitate animals in need through a nationwide network of hospitals, units, and education programs. PFA also lobbies parliament to improve animal welfare policies and legislation. Find out more about their work, and show your support today!

“Animal welfare is not just about animals. It is about us. Our living conditions, our children, our earth. Cruelty to animals has a significant irreversible impact on human  health, economy and environment.”

 

 

 

Celebrate World Vegan Day – Screen The Last Pig in your Community!

Looking for outreach ideas to mark World Vegan Day? Why not host a screening of The Last Pig? World Vegan Day, November 1st is an ideal time to raise AR awareness in your community (or any time in November). VegFund is eager to support animal rights activists like you in sharing this powerful film in communities across the globe! The film has just finished screening at independent theaters and on the festival circuit and is now available for community screenings. Read on to find out more about the film and how you can host a screening.

“THE LAST PIG is a lyrical meditation on what it means to be a sentient creature with the power to kill. Deeply immersive, the film follows a pig farmer through his final year of slaughtering pigs. Through sparse, intimate musings, the farmer reveals the growing conflict of a life spent ‘peddling in death.’ ”

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About The Last Pig

This intimate and deeply moving film asks its audience to understand the sanctity of life, with the goal of expanding our capacity for compassion. The Last Pig documents the journey of farmer Bob Comis’ final year farming pigs, with a soul-bearing and honest narrative about the ghosts that will haunt him forever and the struggles he faces to reinvent his life. Comis has been chronicling his life as a pig farmer via HuffPost and his personal blog for the past ten years.

The pace of the film is unhurried and meditative, enabling the viewers to absorb life on the farm and in the slaughterhouse. With stunning cinematography and a beautiful backdrop, Argo documents the life of this small-scale livestock farmer in meticulous detail. Her work illuminates the reality of this industry on a most humane level — from the always entertaining and unique nature of pigs, to the unsettling sounds of the slaughterhouse where their lives draw to a close.

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This feature-length documentary will move your audience and inspire them to question the role of farm animals in our lives. Interested in hosting a screening? Read on for some recommended steps to get started!

Host A Screening

  • Review Screening Guidelines:

Review our screenings guidelines and consider whether you’d like to plan a screening event on your own or in partnership with a local vegan or animal rights group. Also consider what kind of venue you’d choose to screen the film. VegFund is able to cover some of the costs associated with renting a space as well as vegan food samples for audience members.

  • Apply for a grant!

Once you decide you are ready to host a screening, please visit VegFund’s grant application portal to apply for grant funding to cover the film’s license as well as certain event-related costs.

We’ve already heard from activists across the globe expressing their interest in hosting a screening of this film. Join them and play a part in changing hearts and minds. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us via conferences@vegfund.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

For the pigs.

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About The Filmmakers

The Last Pig Director/Producer, Allison Argo of Argo Films:

Allison Argo is a six-time Emmy-winning filmmaker and noted animal advocate. Her inspiring films, all broadcast by PBS and National Geographic, have won more than 80 awards internationally and have reached audiences worldwide. Argo has worked on the frontline for over 20 years, fighting for the just treatment of nonhuman beings. She is known for her emotionally-charged and meaningful films, particularly her intimate portraits of endangered and abused animals.

The Last Pig Producer/Cinematographer, Joseph Brunette:

Producer and Director of Photography, Joseph Brunette, is an award-winning cinematographer whose work has appeared on National Geographic, CNN, PBS, NOVA, Nature, Discovery, and History. Brunette has an ability to capture the essence of even the most poignant moments, and his sensitive work behind the camera enables a level of intimacy and honesty that reveals the vulnerable heart of any story. The Last Pig holds special meaning for Brunette, who has long been an advocate for animal welfare and the environment.

The Synagogue Vegan Challenge: Jewish Communities Embrace Vegan Living

VegFund is pleased to announce its partnership with the vegan–Jewish organization, The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, in launching The Synagogue Vegan Challenge an initiative that will help put veganism on the Jewish agenda.

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Hosted by The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, an animal welfare organization that educates leaders, trains advocates, and campaigns for animals’ rights within and on behalf of the Jewish community, The Synagogue Vegan Challenge is the first of its kind!

The main goal of the challenge is to encourage Jewish communities to experiment with vegan living for one year, with the overall mission of challenging these communities to:

“think more deeply about animal welfare, kashrut (kosher law), and compassion for all, through gentle, non-judgmental discussion and by showing how nutritious and tasty plant-based foods can be.” – The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute

Rabbi Yanklowitz, who is leading this initiative, said the following in an interview with VegNews:

“There’s not one vegan synagogue in America. It’s very hard to make changes, and we have to make it easier for people. If people see that vegan food can be healthy and tasty, they are more likely to consider a dietary change. The synagogue should be a place of education, where people can learn about the health benefits of going vegan.” 

So, how does The Synagogue Vegan Challenge work?

Five synagogues in the United States and Canada will be chosen for the program every year, and each will receive a $5,000 grant upon successful completion of the one-year vegan challenge. The synagogues selected for the 2017 pilot program are:

During the year, these synagogues will serve plant-based meals to their communities, whether kiddush, b’nai mitzvot, Shabbat, or any life-cycle event. Alongside the meals, they will also provide their communities with creative education on compassion for all, including:

  • Hosting a vegan-catered Shabbat (or have community members bring their own plant-based creations – potluck style!)
  • Screening a documentary film promoting animal welfare followed by Q&A and discussion
  • Holding a workshop featuring discussion sources from the Shamayim V’Aretz website

Who can get involved?

The Synagogue Vegan Challenge encourages everyone to get involved, whether you’re running an existing synagogue, keen to set up a new one, vegan already, or simply interested in reducing the amount of animal products in your diet (and your community’s diet).

Please note that 2017 applications are now closed. Rabbi Yanklowitz plans to continue the program in 2018 if the pilot program goes well.

We look forward to hearing how this year’s participants progress in The Synagogue Vegan Challenge!

The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute was launched by Rabbi Yanklowitz, musician Matisyahu, and actress Mayim Bialik in 2012, and its name means “heaven on earth.” You can find out more about The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute and their campaign work here.

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The Impact of Online Campaigns in Vegan Outreach: An Interview with Claudio Pomo of Essere Animali

Essere Animali, an animal rights and vegan organization based in Italy that is dedicated to information-sharing to overcome exploitation of animals, is changing the world for farm animals with their campaigns, which include undercover investigations into animal welfare issues as well as support and guidance on vegan living. Claudio Pomo, online campaign manager for Essere Animali, shared with VegFund how online campaigns can effectively challenge consumer attitudes.

Using Facebook Ads Manager, Essere Animali gained more than 3.3 million impressions in June from Italian men (ages 16–54/16–35), women (ages 16–54/16–35), and both genders together using the two same age groups, measuring a cost-per-click (CPC) of €0.05 ($0.06 U.S) and €0.02 ($0.02 U.S.) for all campaigns — which is incredibly cost-effective! Essere Animali’s continued goal is to maintain a similar CPC with the objective of reaching more than 4 million impressions.

We will take a more detailed look at how Facebook Ads Manager works after comments from an interview with Claudio Pomo, Essere Animali‘s Campaigns Manager.

Insights from Claudio Pomo, Essere Animali’s Online Campaigns Manager

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VegFund: What are the reasons for the demographic, age, and gender you targeted? Did you arrive at any interesting findings through targeting these?

CP: The age demographic was chosen based on what seemed to be the most promising. International research shows that young people are the individuals most likely to change their diet for ethical reasons, which is the objective we are pursuing with our ads. Polls among Italians proved it: per capita consumption of meat in Italy has lowered by 10% in the last six years, and this trend has been led mostly by millennials. So the choice for our ads was quite easy.

As for gender, we started with test groups of male-only and female-only of the same age and also tested the same ad for both male and female genders together. After a few months, we saw slightly better results with the female-only group, but more testing is needed before we can draw clear conclusions from this.

This result supports other research showing that females are more eager to adopt a vegan or a vegetarian lifestyle and are more interested in animal rights in general.

Regardless of this supporting research, even if one gender group achieves better results and lower CPC, we think that there is still importance in targeting the other gender group, investing less, and testing the content to see what works best.

VegFund: Could you provide us with examples of the Facebook ad campaigns that you ran throughout June? What were some of your reasons for creating these particular ads?

CP: We advertised some of the best-performing videos tested in previous months. These are both sad videos from our investigations and happy animal videos showing the emotions and capabilities of farmed animals that people often ignore. One short video of our footage from Italian farms — very sad and highly emotional, but not graphic — has been the best-performing video to date and was designed to work well with people not informed about these issues. So far, it is our most successful video content.

During June, we also tested images and links. With the right picture and good copy, a link can grab lots of attention. In one ad, we linked to an article on our website. The reason for this choice was to try to bring people towards a better platform for communication. The website is a space with much less distraction compared with social media, enabling people to delve deeper into the issue, finding more information and useful links or downloadable material. This type of content may reach fewer people than video content, but I think it can achieve better results overall.

VegFund: Can you offer some tips and best practices for other activists working on online campaigns to achieve low CPCs?

CP: Videos are surely the best content and a must! This is nothing new, but we see it when we try to use other content (links, images, etc.). Videos always win.

Short videos work much better than longer ones, especially when we look at the number of viewers who watch the whole video or most of it (most of the views in Facebook are just a few seconds in length). The perfect video is less than one minute long and should be minimal in terms of graphic content. This kind of graphic content can gain a lot of views, but most videos are too short to have a real impact because people tend to stop them after just a few seconds. The attention span on social media is getting lower every year, so it is vital that we adjust our communication tactics to get the most out of these channels.

Happy videos of farmed animals doing unexpected things work very well too and are important. Other videos get people to understand what happens in farms and slaughterhouses, but happy videos help them empathize with animals and relate to them as individuals who have feelings.

If there is some content that we find relevant, we always test it.

VegFund: Can you provide any further insight into the best-performing groups during your first months of tests?

CP: The best-performing group we created is female-only, ages 16–35, with interests in companion animals, cooking, and food, health, wellness, yoga, and the environment. People in this demographic, we think, can be more interested in the suffering of animals in factory farms or the impact of eating habits on our health and the planet. This target audience, we hope, also consists of people who are more eager to challenge their eating habits — the ultimate result we want to achieve.

Facebook Ads Manager requires a little research before you’ll feel confident using it, but it’s becoming more user-friendly by the day as it gains popularity. It’s worthwhile spending time learning about it for your online campaign efforts. Read on for an overview of how it works.

Facebook Ads Manager and Cost-per-Click

Facebook Ads Manager lets activists set up online campaigns that:

  • measure results
  • test different audiences, and
  • identify which advertisements perform better in terms of cost-per-click (CPC) and impression acquired.

“Impressions” refers to the number of times a web page or element on a web page (such as an ad) has been viewed or appears on a page of search results. “Cost-per-click” measures the revenue a “publisher” (anyone who creates and places an ad) receives each time someone clicks on the publisher’s ad.

An online campaign using Facebook Ads Manager involves creating one or more advertisement. A campaign manager chooses one advertising objective for each campaign and defines a target audience(s) (for example, demographic, genders, age ranges, lookalike audiences), budget, schedule, bidding (which can focus on impressions, conversions, views, or engagement), and placement (where you want your ad to appear).

You can learn more about the Facebook Ads Manager here.

 

Thanks again to Claudio at Essere Animali for taking time to speak with us. We look forward to seeing what else Essere Animali has planned in the coming months. Stay up-to-date with their latest activity on Facebook and Twitter.

Find out more about how VegFund can support you with online campaigns today! We’ll delve further into some more of our grantees’ online campaign successes in the coming months, so watch this space.

Activists Unite To Make Indian Animal Rights History!

FIAPO’s (The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations) Living Free campaign and Vegan Outreach have set a record for holding the largest animal rights awareness drive in Indian history, which is now featured in the Limca Book of Records 2017.

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Teams of activists from all across the Indian animal rights community and Vegan Outreach activists joined forces as the “Compassion Crusade” to help educate members of the public about vegan living. Outreach efforts included leafleting, video outreach, and a series of talks.

In just two months, this program reached out to 133,000 people in a total of 12 cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, and Chennai. FIAPO’s impact measurement studies estimate that this outreach will save 66,500 animals.

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This campaign is a great victory for animals and for activists, changing attitudes towards animals and opening the hearts and minds of thousands of people across the country. Help FIAPO continue expanding their outreach efforts. Find out more about the Living Free campaign (and be sure to make use of the brilliant resources they offer). Better still… join in with those speaking out for animals across India by signing up to join their volunteer network.

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We’d like to wish all of the activists at FIAPO the very best with their ongoing successes in making the world a better place for animals. Keep up-to-date with their latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

Feeling inspired? Find out more about VegFund’s grant programs and start planning your next vegan outreach event! Apply for funding today.

Activist Spotlight: Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach held a Food Sampling stall at their local Earth Day festival in April, reaching 50 environmentally-concerned people with lots of wonderful vegan food and educational literature! Activists served Daiya and Field Roast products as well as choc chip cookies, and they distributed Compassion Over Killing’s ‘Eating Sustainably’ and Vegan Outreach’s ‘Compassionate Choices’ literature.

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach -  Earth Day Festival 2016

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach
Earth Day Festival 2016

VegFund spoke with group founder, Lauren to find out more…

VegFund: What inspired you to get involved in vegan outreach?

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach: Going vegan itself inspired me to be involved in spreading the message. Once educated on the issues, I felt compelled to share the information, to advance the movement. I credit the Sonoma County vegan community for initially engaging that desire. From there, I felt empowered to strike out on my own and keep it up.

VF: What other activism and/or vegan events have you been involved in?

LVCO: I have enjoyed tabling and leafleting on a semi-regular basis. When I last moved to an area with no vegan groups, I decided to start one, Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach.

VF: What were some of the common responses and/or discussions you had during this event?

LVCO: On the occasion of Earth Day, I often opened up discussions referencing the environmental impacts of food choices. Since all attendees had just participated in a river and neighborhood clean-up, I figured (correctly) that they were more open to vegan food than the overall local population. Many women presented a casual interest, but it was men especially who exclaimed with pleasant surprise upon tasting the samples.

VF: What was the highlight of this event for you?

LVCO: The highlight was being swarmed by a group of middle-schoolers, all of whom loved the samples and readily took the informational brochures and one of whom explained that when she’s done “growing up” and allowed (by her parents or of an independent age), she plans on becoming vegan. She spoke eloquently about dairy milk being for the calves, so I have faith in her, but she was running off when I wanted to explain away any nutritional concerns; so my husband yelled out, “keep influencing your friends!”

VF: What barriers did you face during the hosting of this event?

LVCO: The only limiting factor was the attendance, but it was expected for a town of its population, but capitalizing on a community event that attracted eco-conscious people was a great opportunity nonetheless.

VF: Do you have any quotes/paraphrases from attendees at your event or anecdotes that may be of interest to other activists?

LVCO: My advice is to work with your situation. As I currently live in a relatively sparse and sprawling area, I still can make a difference in the local communities. One can plant seeds, reach out, and create change anywhere.

There are many ways to inspire people with your outreach efforts, and VegFund would love to help you! Please read our Grant Programs Overview for information on the types of grants available and how to apply.

 

Persistence, Positivity, and Patience: The Influencing Factors of Behavior Change

The first, annual Reducetarian Summit

VegFund sponsored and attended the first-ever Reducetarian Summit last month, held in New York City, May 20 and 21. The Summit was organized by The Reducetarian Foundation and complemented the recently released book, The Reducetarian Solution, by Brian Kateman. The event brought together a global network of perspectives and technologies with the goal of exploring how to create a more equitable, compassionate, and sustainable food system.

Image Credit: Reducetarian Summit 2017

Image Credit: Reducetarian Summit 2017

Some 400 practitioners, students, and the interested public convened at the event. The central theme of the Summit was a call to collaborate to reduce global meat consumption on a significant scale as a fundamental step needed to effect positive and lasting changes in the areas of:

  • animal rights and welfare
  • food systems and food services
  • world hunger
  • the environment and resource use
  • climate change
  • human economic development and policy

A daunting task

Reducing meat consumption globally is a daunting and sobering task, to say the least. A reminder of the magnitude of the problems relating to meat consumption is worth restating. In the United States, we consume an estimated 275 pounds of meat per person per year, largely because meat is readily available and affordable due to the massive use of antibiotics, highly tuned genetics, factory farming, and feedlots. China consumes 25 percent of all meat produced today — double that of the United States. Export of the factory farming model to other countries is driving up meat production and consumption across the industrializing world. Animals consume an estimated 36 percent of all food crops grown as we face the possibility for simultaneous famines in the world at this time.

Those of us who promote a vegan lifestyle hope for zero percent animal consumption TODAY, but we operate within an environment in which much of the West has created a dietary and economic dependency on animals and on the marketing and subsidies that make animal products the easiest foods to access.

How do we tackle the problem systematically?

Unwinding this model will take long-term efforts to change not only consumer behavior but also agricultural and food policy, farming for food production, and dietary standards — to name just a few of the challenges we face.

Factory farming is pushing the world’s some 500 million small farmers off the land where their daily survival is tied to animal agriculture. This phenomenon and other harsh realities force us to examine simplistic approaches to behavior change in meat consumption and the use of animal products.

Image Credit: Reducetarian Summit 2017

Image Credit: Reducetarian Summit 2017

The key question of the two-day event was: “How do we as individuals, organizations, communities, and societies work to systematically decrease meat consumption?” Discussions covered a variety of important topics, including our broken food system, the politics of meat, the rise of conscious capitalism, innovations in food manufacturing, and more.

Persistence, positivity, and patience

Reducetarian panelists spoke about how we must not use ineffective tactics that demonize people for eating meat, but rather, as vegan activists, we should focus on the good a person is adding to his or her life and community when choosing to not consume an animal product. We need smart approaches to working with chefs, religious institutions, and community leaders as influencers and change-makers. We, as activists, need to act broadly across policy, legislation, and local and national politics. And, we need to work within the mind-boggling web of the supply and value chains that eventually lead to the products on our food plate. Above all, we must be persistent, positive, and patient — and take a deep breath for the long-haul!

Panelists repeatedly stressed the importance of collaboration. Whether vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, or reducetarian, if we as activists are to make a dent in the mass scale of factory farming, we must work together; listen to the points of view of others, build relationships, and use the wealth of skills, passions and technology available to us.

Learn more

You can now view the full video recordings of the Summit presentations and panels, which we highly recommend. After the success of the 2017 event, the Summit returns in 2018 for another inspiring gathering of creative minds and timely topics! Register your interest now to receive further details and updates.