The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Hawaii and Virginia Teen Each Awarded $5,000 Vegetarian Scholarship

Posted on July 06, 2010 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

The Vegetarian Resource Group is honored to present a $5,000 scholarship to Melissa Monette of Mililani, Hawaii, for her outstanding work in promoting vegetarianism one pound of food at a time. With diligence and the help of community members and donors, she was able to collect over 28,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables to feed over 133,000 individuals.

Melissa's non-profit charity, A Harvest For Many Inc., was created after her grandmother was turned away from a non-profit which distributed canned goods only to the homeless. Melissa noticed that her grandmother, who was left to survive on a single income after the passing of her husband, and others like her needed help. Melissa's program has been able to provide vegetarian food assistance to senior citizens, the homeless, displaced teens, battered women, and to children living in shelters.

After acquiring both fresh and canned fruits and vegetables from farms, organizations, supermarkets, can food drives, and the homeowners of Oahu that donated surplus fruits and vegetables, Melissa found it important to also focus on fitness and nutrition. An integral part of A Harvest For Many Inc., an aerobics class, encompassed both the fitness and nutrition aspect of Melissa's vision. Vegetarian meals were prepared for those that participated in the aerobics class. She arranged for dietitians to provide nutritional presentations about eating healthy Hawaiian foods. With great bountiful locally grown food in Hawaii such as mango, papaya, and taro, Melissa's program gave individuals nutritional information about these vegetarian products. Melissa was also able to coordinate several vegetarian potlucks. She even plans to create a vegetarian cookbook from some of the best dishes and recipes used at the potlucks.

Melissa also encouraged low income facilities to create community gardens to grow their own produce. By planting tomato seedlings herself, Melissa was able to advocate a healthy vegetarian diet and ensure that there would be at least one more pound of food growing.

A vegetarian for approximately 5 years now, Melissa's activism does not stop at her non-profit charity. As captain of her tennis team and Oahu Interscholastic Association (OIA) state champion, she regularly prepared vegetarian pasta dishes for her teammates. She also gave presentations at neighborhood board meetings and community service meetings about the vegetarian diet.

 

The Vegetarian Resource Group is also honored to present a $5,000 scholarship to Nina Gonzalez, of Stratford High School, for her diligence in changing school lunches at both the local and national level. With all the meat options students could choose from, Gonzalez envisioned healthy, vegetarian dishes and worked hard to implement her vision at the school cafeteria.

Nina conducted extensive research on the National School Lunch Program, learning about all the different dietary requirements of food in school cafeterias. After having successfully learned about all this information, she was able to set up a meeting with a certified dietitian to become more informed about the dietary guidelines for adolescents and was then able to meet with the school district nutrition director where she discussed her vegetarian proposal using schools in Fairfax County as an example of institutions that had adopted a vegetarian-friendly cafeteria.

Shortly following a taste test that was conducted at her school with vegetarian and non-vegetarian students, she was able to successfully encourage the inclusion of vegetarian lunch items such as bean burritos, taco salads, pita and hummus, as well as a salad bar and potato bar. These changes were available to all school levels; from adolescents in high school to children in elementary school.

Nina's activism did not just stop once vegetarian meals were implemented in her school's cafeteria. As a top athlete in tennis, golf, and cross country, she has been able to transfer similar energy and perseverance she used when qualifying for the Virginia State Golf Championships and apply it when she promotes vegetarianism.

Nina successfully has been able to project her views to truly impact those around her. She has been involved by leafleting through Vegan Outreach near the University of Maryland and at different entertainment venues to reach today's youth.

In 2008, she even got involved by voicing and effectively presenting her opinions to the U.S Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Nina also testified twice this spring in front of the Senate committee on Nutrition in Washington as a teen advocate for vegetarian and vegan school lunch options nationwide. She was able to voice her passion and commitment for the vegetarian diet and keep working to ensure that a plant based meal is available upon request in our nation's schools. Nina was able to further do this at a Congressional hearing regarding vegetarian meals at schools, part of the Healthy Schools Meal Act, and was able to meet with the senator and representative to voice her own personal story and dedication to the health and compassion benefits of vegetarian diet. Just this past April, Nina went to New York and did a video for Good Morning America Health, where she promoted vegetarianism by revealing alarming nutritional facts, such as the fat content in burgers.

 

A vegetarian does not eat meat, fish, or fowl. A vegan is a vegetarian who does not use other animal products such as eggs and dairy. For more information on a vegetarian diet, visit The Vegetarian Resource Group at www.vrg.org or write to The Vegetarian Resource Group, P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203.

The Vegetarian Resource Group is a national non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about vegetarianism. VRG publishes the quarterly Vegetarian Journal, and sponsors two annual $5,000 scholarships for graduating high school seniors who have promoted vegetarianism in their communities. Applicants are judged on having shown compassion, courage, and a strong commitment to promoting a peaceful world through a vegetarian diet/lifestyle. Entries should be sent in a student's senior year before February 20th. Early submission is encouraged. For more information on the scholarship, visit http://www.vrg.org/student/scholar.htm.

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