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.

 

California College Students Share Vegan Food Samples for Meatout 2015

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Volunteers from Vikings for Animals in CA discussing veganism with their fellow students.

Every first day of spring, thousands of vegan activists take part in Meatout, and VegFund is thrilled to be a source of funding for some of these activists through our Food Sampling program. These events vary widely in size and layout, but what they all have in common is vegans banding together to show others how wonderful vegan food can be and to encourage them to move toward a more compassionate diet.

volunteers

It’s always best to have multiple volunteers to ensure you’re able to greet each person and keep everything going smoothly!

One of the best recaps we have gotten so far from Meatout 2015 that just passed was from Vikings for Animals, a local college student group in California. They reached an estimated 350 students at their school with vegan food samples and literature. They even gave out information on how to eat vegan in their local community and how to get involved with their group. It is always a good idea to give potential new vegans information like this that they can use to follow up on their good intentions once your food sampling table is gone!

At their table, Vikings for Animals gave out vegan cookies, milks, and deli slices, all of which passersby found interesting and tasty. The food and information led to some great conversations, including with former vegans, someone who was dating a vegan, someone whose mother was an activist, and more! All of this shows how important and helpful it can be just to get the vegan message out there and be available to answer questions and clear up misconceptions.

Missed Meatout this year? No problem! As our many past and current grantees know, VegFund gives out Food Sampling grants year round and it is a piece of (vegan) cake for any eligible vegan activist to get started. Check out our guidelines today!

The Beast, Healthy Vegan Diets, and The Death of Meat

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Beyond Meat’s High-Protein Veggie Burger Is the Best Thing to Ever Happen to Vegans (and anyone who wants to make more compassionate choices!)

The great Ginny Messina RD lays out the plan for a healthy, cruelty-free diet.

UN Endorses Veganism

The Nasdaq market warns investors of the coming “Death of Meat“!

 

Holiday Joy Found in Fundraising & Vegan Baking (w/ Recipes!)

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Left to right: San Diego vegan advocates Tracy Childs, Veg Appeal, Liz Gary, New Options Food Group, and Gina Sample, The Vegan Lab

By Liz Gary, New Options Food Group

Everyone loves holiday cookies but the fact is that nearly all of our traditional holiday cookies are riddled with eggs and dairy.  I love to bake and after becoming a vegan several years ago I began developing and teaching vegan pastry and baking classes to share the goodness of plant based baked goods with the local community.  Three years ago I decided to initiate a holiday baking tradition that would bring friends together to create holiday gifts with a purpose; raise awareness to the joy of vegan baking and create change…it’s working!

table

This year’s event was hosted at the beautiful home of vegan bloggers David & Donna Kater (www.davidkaterblog.com).  There were mixing, rolling, cutting, decorating and gift-wrapping stations set-up.  Participants were able to make up to six gourmet cookie gift packages to share with family, friends, and co-workers.  This joyous occasion brought in donations to support the Veg Fund and Vegan Outreach, there were drawings for generous gifts donated by Mark Reinfeld of Vegan Fusion, a cookbook provided by the Humane Society, and t-shirts provided by Boulder Brands Earth Balance Butter.  We baked, we sang holiday carols, and we celebrated the goodness of plant-based living knowing that the work we were doing would continue to help create change and raise awareness.  Each cookie gift package included recipe cards providing “food for thought.”  Then, the best part of all of this is the gift giving and seeing the reaction from the recipients of these beautiful holiday vegan cookie packages!

 Here’s how it works:

I work part-time as a substitute teacher and on Monday following our baking event I took some cookie gift packages to work with me.  I checked in at the office and gave the principal and receptionist a cookie gift and they thanked me.   Within minutes the principal was sampling the cookies and rushed into my classroom and shouted out to me, “these are vegan cookies!!?”  My heart swelled, I smiled, and said, “YES!!”  She was delighted and surprised, and that’s exactly what I was after.  I had more cookies with me, and in came my class of 10th grade English students.  The teacher had left an article about cattle farming to discuss with the class so this opened up a big opportunity for me to expand on my work in teaching vegan cooking.  I gave the students information about my free vegan food fairs held at our public libraries and I gave them a list of online resources to learn more about the plant-based diet.  Next, I took out my big bag of chocolate chip vegan cookies and shared them with the class. They ate the cookies in amazement and everyone wanted the recipe!  I had just made a lot of new friends who were starting to think about what they are eating, they were beginning to make the connection.

During my lunch break one student returned to my classroom, she came to see me to tell me that she was ready to try a vegan diet.  That moment was beautiful and I felt tears of joy!  I told her it wouldn’t be easy at first, to go online and study, research, and follow up by attending the free food sampling events.  It’s moments like this that make it all worthwhile. We help make the world a better place by sharing information and vegan holiday cookies!

Change is happening and it’s thanks to organizations like the Veg Fund and Vegan Outreach who are providing the foundation of information and resources to help us get out there in the community to spread the good news and share the wholesome deliciousness that’s found in plant based foods.

So, we end our year giving thanks and celebrate the good things we’ve accomplished in 2014.  We look forward to a fantastic 2015 and will be offering free Meatless Monday Family Cooking Classes, more Vegan Food Fairs, and my dream for 2015 is to hold a Vegan Fashion Show and Food Fair where students in fashion design and culinary arts can learn more about plant based living and participate by creating projects to share at the event.   This dream is getting closer to becoming a reality with organizations like the Art Institute of San Diego taking interest and the San Diego Public Library System offering a world-class venue to hold the event.

Thank you VegFund!  Being a part of this movement to create change and make the world a better place could not be a more rewarding experience!

sugar

Cane Sugar Cookies
¾ cups vegan butter
1 cup organic cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½  tsp almond extract
1 tsp baking powder
2 ½ cups unbleached flour
2-3 tablespoons almond milk
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large bowl combine the vegan butter and sugar.  Beat until smooth then add the vanilla and almond extracts.  In a medium mixing bowl combine the baking powder, flour and salt.  Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter and sugar stirring until it forms a dough.  Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for about an hour or until the dough is firm.  On a lightly floured cutting board roll the dough to 1/4 “ thickness and cut with assorted cookie cutters. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Decorate with buttercream or royal icing.

Buttercream Frosting

½ cup vegan butter
2 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2-3 tablespoons non-dairy milk

Food coloring (optional)

Use an electric mixer to combine all ingredients until fluffy.

With an electric mixer cream the butter until smooth.  Add the sugar, vanilla, and milk.  Beat on high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy.  Divide into smaller bowls and tint with food coloring.


ginger

Vegan Gingerbread Men

3 cups unbleached flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
6 tablespoons vegan butter
¾ cup organic dark brown sugar
½ cup applesauce
½ cup molasses

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large bowl combine non-dairy butter, brown sugar, applesauce and molasses.  Beat until smooth.  In a medium bowl combine all the dry ingredients, mix well then gradually stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture mixing until it forms a dough.  Divide the dough into two pieces.  Flatten them and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.  Roll the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface.  Roll dough to ¼” thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Transfer to baking sheets.  Bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.   Transfer to a wire rack to cool then frost with Royal Icing.

Royal Icing

1 cup organic powdered sugar
2 teaspoons non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons light agave syrup
¼ teaspoon almond extract

In a small bowl combine all ingredients until smooth and well blended.  If the icing is too thick add more agave syrup. Divide into bowls and add food coloring.  Cover icing with a damp cloth when not using to avoid drying.

 

About: New Options Food Group was founded to provide outreach to the community and foodservice to help raise awareness to the growing need for more plant-based foods.  We host and coordinate community food sampling events, cooking classes, culinary tours and provide foodservice support in growing new vegan-friendly menu options.   Contact: Liz Gary for more information at 760-815-5590 or by email at liz@newoptionsfoodgroup.com

 

Cooking Demos: Educating People Through Delicious, Vegan Food

By Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

“If it tastes good, they will eat it” are words that vegan author and speaker Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has repeated time and time again. Whether it’s a decadent chocolate cupcake or a salad with an out-of-this world dressing, it doesn’t matter if it’s vegan as long as it’s delicious. And the key is to show people that vegan food can be even more delicious than non-vegan food!

Which leads us to a specific type of activism you may not have considered yet: cooking demos. Whether you choose to host your demo in a church or at a supermarket, whether you feature brunch or dessert, and whether it’s your first time or 100th, you will undoubtedly show people how delicious and creative vegan food can be.

We’ve talked with four amazing activists who have done this type of activism and they had some great ideas to share that we hope will inspire you!

Terri Nelson-Bunge, DTR (TNB): Terri is a long-time vegan and animal activist and has participated in a variety of events. One group she was involved with held monthly events at her local library, including cooking demos. Soon Terri will be launching a plant-based nutrition program called Happy, Healthy, & Whole.

Dr. Matthew Halteman (MH): Matt is a philosophy professor at a liberal arts college. Each year he teaches a course on animal ethics and advocacy. In 2007, Matt started Wake Up Weekend, an animal rights festival that features cooking demos among other things. On several occasions, Wake Up Weekend has hosted vegan chef and cookbook author Bryant Terry.

Leila Vaughan (LV): Leila is a founder and director of Peace Advocacy Network (PAN), and devotes significant time to organizing the PAN Vegan Pledge in the DC Metro Area and around the country. Cooking demos are central to the PAN Vegan Pledge program as well as other vegan advocacy that PAN does.

Gwendolyn Mathers (GM): Gwendolyn is a professional vegan chef and owns a vegan baking company in Los Angeles called Miss Kitchen Witch. She started doing cooking demos because she could see that there were many who were trying to transition to vegetarian or vegan, but who didn’t know what to cook or where to start.

Miss Kitchen Witch Cooking Demo

VF: What is the first step in hosting a successful vegan cooking demo?

TNB: The first step is to find a good location (hopefully free), and someone who is comfortable doing the demo. This may be an activist in the group, or in our case, a professional chef who is well-versed in vegan cooking.

MH: The first step to achieving a great cooking demo is to recruit a great presenter who has ample experience cooking in public. It’s tempting to think that anyone who is a “good cook” would make a good presenter, but in practice that’s not always the way it goes. Cooking for live audiences requires, among other things, foresight into which recipes are both accessible to wide audiences and executable on portable equipment, knowledge about how to prep and transport perishable ingredients without compromising the recipe, the ability to cook and talk simultaneously, and the poise to troubleshoot mistakes or unanticipated equipment malfunctions. That’s not to say that non-professionals can’t pull off a great demo; it’s just to say that those who haven’t done a public demo before should think ahead about these potentially challenging aspects of the process, practice the demo several times for friends and family, and perhaps even consider recruiting a partner to split up the responsibilities, with one person doing the chef-work and one doing the talking.

VF: Where are the best places to hold cooking demos?

TNB: The best places are locations that are:

  • Free or inexpensive
  • Veg events
  • Easy to access (parking)
  • Community events that draw a large audience

GM: Churches, spiritual centers, community centers, schools, libraries, and even supermarkets are great places to do demos. They often have kitchens, large community rooms—not to mention an existing audience base. Find those that feel like they ofter the low hanging fruit and lean toward what you want to teach.

VF: What are your top three tips for first timers?

TNB: 1. Be organized! You want people to come back, not feel frustrated with your event. 2. Hand out recipe cards for each dish you prepare. 3. Promote the event as much as you can. Promotion can be done through a website, Facebook page, word of mouth, flyers, and if held at a public venue (e.g., a library) through that location.

MH: 1. Retain a compelling presenter. For a lot of people, this presentation will be the first time they’ve seen a vegan recipe prepared, so it’s best to have an approachable, gracious, experienced person at the helm to create the best possible impression. 2. Book a sensible venue. Even the world’s best presenter will face difficulty in a poorly chosen venue. A fold-out table with 30 yards of extension cords between you and the nearest outlet in a park on an 85 degree summer day is no place to try to make appetizing food with perishable plant-based ingredients. 3. Keep the demo simple with delicious recipes that showcase the ability of plant-based foods to replace familiar comfort-food favorites with healthier alternatives. When people see that eating a plant-based diet can be easily done without giving up their favorite tastes and textures, the prospect of going vegan becomes much more inviting.

VF: What do you do to attract non-vegan attendees to the event?

LV: Promote the class as a free cooking demo for non-vegans and new vegans and ask vegans to please invite their non-vegan friends. As much as we love being around fellow vegans, everyone will understand that the purpose of this demo is to introduce non-vegans to vegan food. That way vegans will know that the class is more basic, and will also leave valuable class space open for the non-vegans and new vegans who really need the exposure to vegan cooking.

GM: Aside from making your demos free and open to the public, you’ve got to figure out what is the best way to get the word out for your particular event. Putting it on in a church or community center? Put up posters or go to other free classes and events to pass out leaflets. Post your event to local calendars, online community listings, bulletin boards, or ask local bloggers to share your event. Social media really takes the vegan cake when getting the word out. Create a Facebook event page. You can invite those in your area and ‘tweet’ your event page link to community event users in your town and newspaper accounts on Twitter. Though, it’s not all just about getting the word out and putting up posters. You’ve got to start with a demo that entices the average person. Sometimes you’ve got to start with cupcakes before you pull out the kale salad!

VF: Anything else you’d like to add?

LV: If the circumstances permit, give attendees a chance to get involved (after they wash their hands or put on gloves). Give them something to do, like chopping, mixing, etc. The more involved people are, the more fun they seem to have.

TNB: Yes. Don’t forget, a cooking demo (or any other event), is also a great way to promote animal rights. Have a literature table full of information about animal issues and especially at a cooking demo, veg starter kits that contain recipes.

We’d like to thank Terri, Matt, Leila, and Gwendolyn for taking the time to share these great tips!  If you have your own techniques or cooking demo experiences to share, please leave a comment. We love hearing from you!

And, don’t forget that VegFund provides funding to help support vegan cooking demos through our Merit Awards program!

Your 2014 Guide to Vegan Festivals and Events in the Midwest

By Leslie Brefeld, 2014 Winter Intern

Looking to get out and expand your vegan circle? One great way to meet like-minded folks who share your compassionate eating values is to attend a VegFest. With more and more vegan festivals popping up each year, even areas that aren’t known for being particularly “veg-friendly,” such as the Midwest, can now boast of several great events. Most festivals are free and offer a day (or two) of festival-atmosphere fun with music, educational speakers and activities for kids. Below are just some of the events that are taking place this year. If there are other vegan festivals in the Midwest that you enjoy, please keep the conversation going by posting the details in the comments section. Thanks!

VegFest, Vegan Tastefest and Expo

Date: April 13
Location: Novi, Michigan
Time: 10:30 am to 5 pm
Cost: $10 admission

The festival features speakers including Daryl Hannah on Turning Inspiration into Action, cooking demos, a food court, children’s activities and an expo with vegan, environmental and healthy products and services.

Chicago Veggie Pride Parade

Date: May 31
Location: Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois
Time: Parade is at noon, registration is at 11 am
Cost: Free admission

Join the parade to support local vegans and vegetarians, raise awareness about a plant-based diet, and socialize with like-minded people.

Mad City Vegan Fest

Date: June 7
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Time: 10 am to 5 pm
Cost: Free admission

Madison is an awesome city, so any excuse to spend a nice summer day up there is a no-brainer. Check out http://madisonvegan.com/ if you want to hit up a vegan restaurant while in town. The festival features speakers including author Nick Cooney, cooking demos, exhibitors and free food.

Veggie Fest 2014

Date: August 9-10
Location: Naperville, Illinois
Time: 11 am to 8 pm
Cost: Free admission

Veggie Fest is the big one in Chicago. It’s named in VegNews magazine’s 2011 list of Must-Visit Summer Vegetarian Festivals. And according to their facebook page, Veggie Fest is one of the largest vegetarian festivals in the country. The festival features over two days of live bands, a Spirituality and Health Symposium, international food court, art show, food demos and family events.

Chicago Vegan Mania

Date: October 11
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Time: 10 am to 5 pm
Cost: Free admission

The festival features speakers, workshops, chef demos, live music with the Culture Cafe Entertainment, kids activities, a food court and exhibitors.

Also, if you’re into travelling, or not a Midwesterner, the Vegan Voice offers a great year-long calendar of worldwide vegan events.

Hope to see you out there! Leave us a comment if you attend to tell us about your experience.

Vegan Outreach in the Yoga Community

By Leslie Brefeld, 2014 Winter Intern

Hilda in Yoga Pose; Photo by RayAngelo

Photo by: Ray Angelo

People who do yoga are generally a conscious and caring group. They tend to be open to new ideas, and they are growing in number. Vegan advocates, especially those already involved in yoga in some way, would likely find a good audience in people who do or teach yoga. Advocates can bring up the ethical, health and environmental implications of a diet that includes animals raised for food, in the terms of the yogic philosophy.

Ethics

Patanjali, the great yogi who was able to conceptualize and write down what yoga is, described the eight limbs of yogic practice. The limb that stands out for the issue of eating animals is Yama, or “choosing to practice moral restraint in external interactions” (p.44, The Aquarian Teacher). Yama is then broken into five subsets, which include non-hurting (ahimsa) and non-stealing (asteya). Clearly, all the horrors inflicted on animals raised for food from birth to slaughter would violate the former. Diverting milk intended for a mother’s child, and diverting that child away from his or her mother, would be considered a violation of the latter, stealing. Those who practice yoga are working their way toward being more and more compassionate. If they can see that every meal is an opportunity for a caring act of nonviolence, it may turn some minds toward veganism.

Health

Considering health, the following is the perspective of eating meat from yogic philosophy:

“Meat is among the most acid-producing foods. It leaves a residue of uric acid in the bloodstream. Acidic blood is an ideal environment for the development of cancer. Uric acid is a toxin that makes it harder to reach the higher, clearer meditative states because it is an irritant in the bloodstream.

Meat is also among the greatest sources of cholesterol, which contributes to heart disease, hardening of the arteries, and senility. Most animals which are raised for their meat today are fed a variety of chemicals and hormones to make them grow faster and bigger.

Meat takes three days to pass through the human system. For optimum health, men need to digest food within 24 hours; women 18 hours” (p. 253 The Aquarian Teacher).

Yogis tend to be concerned with their health and would likely find all the health benefits of a plant-based diet compelling.

Environment

Refraining from eating animals also corresponds to the yogic principles of taking care of the Earth.

Andrea Kowalski wrote in a 2012 feature for VegNews magazine how the yama (moral restraint) aparigraha, or greedlessness, supports a vegan diet. Specifically, she writes about how much more land, water and energy are used to raise animals for food in comparison to how much would be needed to feed a human with a vegan diet. Also, the yama asteya, mentioned earlier as non-stealing, can also be interpreted as “right use of resources” (p 44, The Aquarian Teacher), which would support this viewpoint.

Jivamukti Yoga co-founder and vegan, Sharon Gannon, answers the question “Can someone be a meat-eating environmentalist?” on her website:

“If that someone is a human being, then in my opinion, no; it is a contradiction in terms. To be an environmentalist is to care about the environment and care about life on planet Earth. The raising of animals for food and all that it entails is the single most destructive force impacting our planet’s fragile ecosystems. Our planet simply cannot sustain the greed of billions of human beings who are eating other animals.”

Reaching Out

Nikki in yoga pose

Nikki in yoga pose

A great way to reach out to the yogic community is to provide them with delicious samples of vegan food. In so doing, an activist can introduce people to the vegan diet, showing how it is normal and good, and also how it connects to yogic practice. Sampling out food is a very positive way to engage people and is an excellent conversation starter–anything from where the ingredients were bought, to how it is prepared, to why people choose to be vegan.

Educational literature to reinforce the vegan food and your message is also important. A Life Connected, by NonViolence United, is a beautiful piece and would be great for placement in a yoga studio. Vegan Outreach’s Compassionate Choices emphasizes the compassionate angle, while the Eating Sustainably brochure from Compassion Over Killing illustrates the ripple effect of eating on the rest of the world. Farm Sanctuary’s Recipes for Life Booklet would likely be appreciated by healthy yogis who enjoy cooking.

If you’re thinking of reaching out to the yogic community and are in need of funding to support your outreach, be sure to check out VegFund’s Food Sampling grant program.

In sum, people who practice yoga often have a deep understanding of how everything is connected into one web of life. Helping this demographic see how veganism is in line with their beliefs can have a big impact. If the yoga community is asked to look deeply at the roots of yoga and its connection to veganism, they can create real social change and greatly reduce the amount of suffering by fellow sentient beings on the planet today.

References:

Bhajan, Yogi. (2003). The Aquarian Teacher

Kowalski, Andrea. (2012). VegNews magazine. “Karmavores?”

 

Starting a Campus Animal Rights Group

By Leslie Brefeld, 2014 Winter Intern

Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) distributes hundreds of vegan food samples and brochures at their college's activities fair.

College campuses are an ideal place to start an animal rights group. Not only are the students open to new ideas, but it gives those involved a great way to creatively express their passions.

AR groups allow you to meet with other like-minded people, to get experience as an activist, to inform, and maybe even inspire, many others.

Even though the number and diversity of animal rights groups is growing, there are still many schools and colleges that don’t have an animal rights/vegan group. If you’ve ever thought about starting a group at your school, but didn’t know where to start, we’re here to help! In this blog, we’ll be listing five tips to starting a group at your college or university, and you’ll get expert advice from current college students who have started, or are a part of, an animal rights group. Creating a vegan or animal rights group doesn’t have to be hard, but it will definitely be rewarding!

1. REGISTER YOUR GROUP

If you want to be affiliated with your college, which means use of their resources, like rooms to meet in, faculty help and greater exposure, sign up to be a school organization. Find out what is needed to get that accomplished through your school’s student affairs or student life office.

Expert Tip: Oxy VegHeads founder at Occidental College in California, Brandi Tebo, described this first step: “So one of the first things I did when I got to college was found veg club. I started by going into the office of student life, sitting down with a coordinator, and asking what I needed to do to get it rolling! Then I filled out the necessary paperwork, and started advertising! I made up these cute little flyers and posted them everywhere around campus, then spent a lot of time planning the first meeting and never looked back!”

2. GET TOGETHER

Set up an informational meeting. Hold it in a public place, maybe in the student lounge or veg-friendly campus food court, so random people aren’t showing up at your house or dorm. During the meeting, find out what people’s interests are and what they would like to do through the group. Make sure to get everyone’s contact information, and if necessary, take up a small donation to cover any costs you incurred by hosting the meeting or to help cover costs for the next meeting. Take notes. You can help newcomers get up to speed by recapping the last meeting’s notes at the beginning of the next meeting. You may also want to think about assigning each other roles so everyone has a clear idea of what their part is.

Resource: Check out the UK Vegan Society’s How to Start a Vegan Group.

Expert Tip: Kitty Jones of the Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy described her experience in a college group, after having started a group in high school. “I’m now one of the leaders of Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy (BOAA) and am trying to use what I learned from high school in managing this group. BOAA was founded in 1999 at UC Berkeley. BOAA also has no set hierarchy, however there are definitely a few members that are particularly involved. I think that having member roles/hierarchy would make the group work more smoothly and efficiently though.”

Kitty Jones of BOAA gives out samples of vegan ice cream3. DECIDE WHAT YOU’RE ALL ABOUT

Think of what excites you. Leafleting? Tabling? Making meals to share? Creating an animal rights film festival? Starting a vegan mentor program? You can also find inspiration by looking at other student-run vegan and animal rights groups’ websites to see how they are structured and what the various tones/styles of the groups are.

Resources: Check out “Plant Peace Daily” by Jim Corcoran and Rae Sikora. This book includes tons of ideas for activism that can be done alone or with a group. Other great resources are major vegan and animal rights organizations. Look to their websites for information, activist activities, funding and general support. Some of the biggies are Vegan Outreach (for leaflets and tips), and of course VegFund, for resources and funding.

4. MEET WITH REGULARITY

Make sure you give your group a chance. If you don’t have a lot of people at your meetings, don’t be discouraged. Give it some time and think of new ways to bring people in.

Expert Tip: “Whether this is a weekly dinner, bi-weekly movie-screening, etc., make sure that there are certain regular events in place that people enjoy coming to and they know they can rely on. This is the backbone of your organization,” Tebo wrote in an email.

5. MINGLE

Once you are a solid group, don’t be afraid to get out there and network. Keep an eye out for how other groups and yours might have things in common or would just like to do something together. You many never have the opportunity to be around as many people willing and wanting to get together as you do in college.

Expert Tip: According to Alessandra Seiter, co-president of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition at Vassar College in New York, working together with other groups is valuable. “For every event we host, we reach out to other student organizations and academic departments who we think would be interested in co-sponsoring an event. For example, six other campus groups–such as the Food Committee and French Club–co-sponsored our recent Vegan “Wyne” & Cheese Tasting because their missions related to our event,” Seiter wrote. “The most important piece of advice I can give is to network. Having a strong community of driven individuals is indispensable in making a large impact with activist work.”

Good luck and have fun!

Are you part of a campus AR/Vegan group? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience. Please leave a comment below.

Nov/Dec 2013 Volunteer Spotlight: Wendy Eikenberry

Wendy talks about her journey to veganism and shares her approach to animal advocacy. 

I have two amazing sisters who have always been an inspiration to me. Despite the fact that our parents were meat-eaters, both of my older sisters went vegetarian at a young age. They helped me “make the connection” and stop eating my animal friends when I was about seven years old. We went vegan about 4 years ago when my oldest sister found out about the horrific cruelty behind dairy and eggs. For all those years, how could we not have known or questioned it? I felt a moral obligation to share with others what I had learned. It was then that I found my true passion and started advocating for animals.

At first I thought that surely people would change if only they knew the truth, but I quickly learned that that wasn’t usually the case. Although dealing with many challenges such as willful ignorance and apathy can be discouraging, I strongly believe in leading by example and presenting the information in a non-confrontational way. I try to use a firm but understanding approach when advocating for veganism and animal rights. Most of us were not born vegan, and we’re all on our own unique paths.
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I am lucky enough to be part of an incredible organization called Indiana Animal Rights Alliance. We educate through leafleting, protests, food sampling, letter campaigns, film screenings, and Pay Per View. I also volunteer for Mercy for Animals, Vegan Outreach, and FARM whenever I can. For the past two and a half years, I have had the privilege of helping with one of VegFund’s online campaigns geared toward young people. I really enjoy educating the younger generation and being a mentor. I am currently going to school for nursing, and my goal as a future nurse is to be an advocate for healthy eating while also reducing animal suffering.

Selecting Effective Outreach Materials

By: Sally Thompson, VegFund Volunteer

When deciding which literature to use at an outreach event, there are a number of factors to consider. First, there’s the obvious: make sure you select brochures that are relevant to the event. For example, if you’re tabling at an eco-fair, you’ll want to have literature that highlights the connections between veganism and the planet. VegFund’s Educational Literature Resource page is a great place to start, as it provides literature suggestions that are broken down by category (e.g., General Tabling, Health, Environmental, etc.).

Once you’ve decided which category (or categories) of literature are appropriate for your target audience, you’ll then need to pick a brochure that effectively conveys the message. Let’s take a look at some of the major factors that make for an effective brochure.

Readability

A pamphlet cannot educate or persuade if the message it is conveying is not clearly understood by the reader. While this may seem obvious, according to a study by The Humane Research Council (2011), many vegan educational materials are written 3 to 4 grades higher than the average US adult’s reading level! Ideally, to be comprehensible for the largest proportion of the public possible, materials should be written at a 7th to 8th grade reading level. Look for literature that uses short sentences and that avoids difficult vocabulary. To test the reading level of a given piece, you can go to www.readability-score.com.

Less is More

Sometimes, in an attempt to cover all the bases, brochures will squeeze in as much information about the animal agriculture industry and the benefits of veganism as possible (O’Connor 2012). However, research suggests that this can overwhelm readers, regardless of their reading ability (Glasser 2012). Decision-making can be a complex process, and when presented with too many options, ‘ego fatigue’ sets in and people are less likely to act or make a good decision (Glasser 2012). Therefore, try to select literature that clearly presents a few key points. Additionally, instead of offering a table with dozens of different brochures, offer a small selection of quality pieces.

Look for a Story

When we hear a story, we tend to relate it to our own experiences and are therefore more receptive to taking in the information (Widrich, 2012). Try to find literature that not only relays information about the mass suffering caused by animal agriculture, but that also tells the story of an individual animal. This will help the reader relate to the issue and reduce the likelihood that they switch off altogether.

Be Inclusive

The use of particular words has also been shown to be effective. A study by Courtney Dillard (2011) suggested that by using words that establish unity and common ground such as ‘we’, ‘our’ and ‘us’ we can more effectively engage people. Even if you’re unable to find brochures with this particular language, using this language while handing out brochures is a great way to increase receptiveness.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Research suggests that the inclusion of visuals within educational material results in a greater degree of learning and understanding (Stokes 2001), and colourful images assist in emphasising information (Pennisi & Winder 2011). Additionally, research by The University of Nebraska found that the attractiveness of a pamphlet determines how likely a person is to pick it up and to continue reading (Pennisi et al. 2011). It is important that there is balance between text and imagery within the pamphlet in order to guide the reader through the information provided and draw their attention to specific areas of its pages (Pennisi & Winder 2011).

So, remember – Simple, concise, and engaging. Keep these factors in mind when evaluating literature and you’ll be able to reach even more people with the vegan message of compassion!

References

Dillard, C (2011) Strategic Communication for Activists. Humane Thinking Blog. 

Glasser, C.L. (2012) Simplifying Advocacy Materials – Understanding Decision Fatigue.

Humane Research Council (2011) Readability of Vegan Outreach Literature.

O’Connor, M (2012) How to Spread Information Without Being Overbearing. [Online]

Pennisi, L.A., Gunawan, Y., Major, A.L., Winder, A. (2011) How to Create an Effective Brochure. NebGuide.

Pennisi, L.A., Winder, A.A. (2011) Effective Graphic Design. NebGuide.

Stokes, S (2001) Visual Literacy in Teaching and Learning: A Lierature Perspective. Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education. 

Widrich, L (2012) The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains.