Tomorrow marks the beginning of US VegWeek 2014!
To celebrate loving life and to encourage people to make small changes in their diet that makes a huge impact on the world, I’m going to join in the festivities and declare this week VegWeek at Fig and Thistle.
This week I will be focusing on books, products and links that educate and support a vegetarian lifestyle. I’ll be sharing how I grocery shop and some basic recipes. I will not be shaming people’s food choices or linking material that exposes the violence animals face at the hands of factory farming. Several of the books, links, and resources I provide will educate on the perils of factory farming. Instead, I would rather make this a positive place to learn about vegetarian/veganism and I would rather see many people make small, manageable changes that are good for the animals, our health, and our earth instead of alienating masses of people. I am even hosting a contest! More on that later.
When I tell people I am a vegetarian (or recently vegan) I am concerned that people feel awkward around me. They immediately apologize for the lunchmeat they ate in front of me, or for expressing a desire for a cheeseburger, or that time they accidentally asked if I wanted a hot dog, etc…. No one needs to apologize to me. I am not under the delusion that one day everyone will wake up and be vegan. There will always be omnivores. I would rather encourage that folks vote with their dollars to support more humane ways of eating meat, dairy, and eggs. There are several reasons why folks legitimately cannot become vegetarian. I hate it when the vegetarian community ignores this and blithely states that everyone can “goveg.” I’m not talking about protein consumption, I’m talking about poverty.
Right now my children are omnivores. We are vegetarian at home, but the children get their meals at school. I pay for daycare for Atticus and Persy Jane and their omnivore meals are included. Hope receives free lunch at school. Sam eats at the university cafeteria for free. To pack lunches for my children and husband would nearly double our grocery budget. Last year, we qualified for WIC. WIC is a program that provides supplemental nutritional assistance for women, infants, and children. We received free milk, cheese, eggs, and canned fish. I couldn’t afford to turn away free food and it is ridiculous to ask anyone to do that. Yes, beans are easy to cook and cheap, but free cheese can stretch that bean meal even further. Also, there are people who live in economically depressed areas called “food deserts.” Often there are no grocery stores and food must be bought at convenience stores where the products are more expensive and produce is nearly nonexistent. I’ve experienced something similar by not having a reliable mode of transportation until I was 28. I had to walk to the drugstore sometimes and buy what I could there. There’s also one of the few perks of working in the food industry: leftovers. Technically many restaurants bar giving away leftover food, but lucky for me the pizza shop I worked at in high school didn’t follow that. I was transient as a teenager for a space of several months. Almost 50% of my meals came from the pizza shop. Screwed up on a supreme pizza? Yay, I get to eat dinner. Bottom line: for vegetarians to smugly sit atop their Whole Foods existence and declare that those who eat animals are evil is hypocritical at best, cruel at worst. Denying people access to healthy food is an unconscionable violence in a country as rich as ours. It is the duty of those who are able to change our system of factory farming AND find a way to feed the hungry.
If I’m not advocating veganism then what is the point of VegWeek? Well, I feel pretty passionately about ending cruelty to animals, improving working conditions for those who work in slaughter-houses (yeah, they’re bad to people, too), and empowering people to eat healthier. I would like to encourage people to make a change to their diet this week. It can be a big change or a little change. Whatever. Just change. Here are a few examples of goals you can make for VegWeek and maybe you’ll even extend those changes past VegWeek:
- Switch to almond, rice, soy, or hemp milk.
- Make your lunches vegetarian or vegan for the week.
- Maybe be more adventurous and try being vegan for all meals before 6pm.
- Try going meatless for one dinner a week.
- Check a vegetarian cookbook out of the library and make one recipe (Pinterest is great, too!)
- Use a local farm for your milk and eggs
- Buy EarthBalance and use it in place of butter throughout the week
- Visit a vegetarian restaurant.
- Go vegetarian (no meat or fish)
- Go vegan (no animal products)
All of these changes impact the lives of animals, the health of our earth, and work to change our current food system. Little changes add up if you are unable to do a big change (like going vegan).
I’m going to be giving away at least two books by the end of the week: Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals and How to be Vegan by Elizabeth Castoria. All you have to do is leave a comment, like, share, or tweet my blog posts this week. That’s it. One entry for each mode of communication (for example, if you comment, like, share on Facebook, and tweet this post you’ll get four entries). Next week I’ll use the random number generator to pick the winners.
Thanks for participating in VegWeek 2014 at Fig and Thistle!