By Mary Herbranson
The “Vegetarian in the Military” article in Volume XXXI, No 1 of Vegetarian Journal sparked a discussion between staff, donors, and members who wish to reach out to service members following a vegan or vegetarian diet overseas. Servicemen and women are not given a spectrum of vegan foods and the lack of consideration to special diets in the military can be discouraging. What better way to express gratitude and promote our favorite vegan foods companies than to honor the vegan and vegetarian military with a pen-pal gift box?
My brother and sister-in-law are Majors in the U.S. Air Force and they both spent the last six months serving in Kabul, Afghanistan. Knowing my interest in food service, Travis told me about his Christmas dinner. A member of his cohort follows a strict vegan diet and without access to her meatless-meal favorites the cooks for the evening, my brother and two others put together three delicious dishes to satisfy vegans and the non-veg alike. Thrilled to see cleared casserole pans, they wondered why such colorful, hearty meat-free meals are not regularly available. The vegan menu was a success and with broadened awareness the possibilities reach far for the military pen-pal project.
As the Vegetarian Journal article states, if three percent of Americans are vegetarian there are about 40,000 vegetarian U.S. servicemen and women overseas. To reach these people The VRG needs help! There may even be a natural foods company with products they are willing to donate to the cause. There are regulations that define what can be sent and servicemen and women who follow meatless diets must sign up if they wish to be included because of heightened security measures. Fortunately, the cost and speed of mailing is similar to shipping within the U.S. since every individual sent overseas is given a U.S. registered P.O. address.
Volunteer coordinators who are willing to take the reigns and develop a plan, recruit volunteers, and manage the pen-pal project are essential to making this a success, so get involved today! To volunteer, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (410) 366-8343 or write to The Vegetarian Resource Group at P.O. Box 1463 Baltimore, MD 21203