The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog


Posted on April 03, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Anna Balfanz

Last December, my internship advisor plopped a huge black binder filled with internship opportunities in front of me. I began flipping through it, casually placing Post-it notes on any pages that appeared interesting. I located a few, but none really spoke to me. My advisor informed me that I could research at home to find the best place to complete my three-week internship project in March.

Back home, I went online, forgot everything in that binder, and began browsing through internships for high school seniors in Baltimore. When I stumbled upon this one, I couldn’t believe it. It seemed to offer everything that interested me: vegetarianism, activism, writing, and non-profit. Best of all, they accepted people my age. The next day, I ran back to my advisor, knowing that VRG was where I wanted to spend the three weeks. Within a week or so, I was one of the first people in my grade to secure an internship.

When Charles (VRG Co-Director) first sent me an email with all my different projects, I knew I was going to have one of my grade’s most hands-on internships. All of the projects related to my resume and interests, ranging from writing a press release to assisting a lawyer, and I eagerly anticipated my classes ending so I could immerse myself in real work.

When I first arrived, I immediately felt at home. Charles gave me a tour of the office, explaining details about non-profits, publishing, and the vegan movement. At the end, he gave me about fifteen books and cookbooks to take home. As a current vegetarian who wants to transition into veganism, this was the perfect gift. Everyone I spoke to in the office welcomed me and made me feel free to ask questions. Having already filled out a preliminary schedule, I could get right to work.

I began working on my Teen FAQ, which turned into a major project. Coming from an Orthodox Jewish school, I’ve faced questions about vegetarianism from a religious standpoint. I wanted to address that in my FAQ, so I chose the question, “How do I respond to religious Jewish or Christian parents/teachers/leaders who question going vegetarian due to Biblical verses against it?” As it turns out, tons of information exists regarding the topic. This remained my favorite project throughout the internship, because I learned so much about the answer myself. I now feel well-prepared to respond to anyone who brings religion into the conversation, and hope others reading the FAQ feel the same way.

Another of my favorite parts of this internship (I had many) was responding to scholarship applicants. Having just suffered through the excruciating process of college applications and essays, I suddenly found myself on the other side. I read essays from high school seniors from all over the United States interested in vegetarianism and their activism, and wrote brief responses to each. Though the office may have been glad when we finished, I missed reading them!

One unique project I undertook was assisting a lawyer in researching prisoners’ rights to vegetarian food. I live near the campus of Johns Hopkins University, and this opportunity allowed me to finally use its library as a resource. Mr. S. Paul Kinzie, the lawyer, taught me how to use WestLawNext, an online legal research system. I researched past cases related to the issue, and learned much more than I expected. When I first began reading through the cases, I had no idea what happened. Every other word felt foreign; I couldn’t even define the Court of Appeals. However, similar to being immersed in a new language, you learn quickly. I now have a much better understanding of the federal legal system, how constitutional rights and the freedom of religion work in prison, and a better understand of how to build a case. After I found a relevant enough case I typed up its summary and relevance, which made me really consider why I found it relevant and how it could be useful. After four years of high school mock trial, the presentation side, it was great to experience the real research side of a court case.

It turns out, at a vegan non-profit, you sample lots of food. For one project, I wrote a review of vegetarian/vegan items at a restaurant. This meant I had an excuse for my family to order tons of food from my favorite restaurant, Donna’s, for dinner one evening. I also wrote three veggie bits for vegan dark chocolate, macaroons, and tortilla chips. People were rightfully jealous when they heard about that aspect of my internship. I left the boxes of food near me so I could snack on them throughout the week, long after I had finished writing the review.

I also wrote an article about vegetarian and vegan Bar and Bat-Mitzvahs, which allowed me to ask people questions and hear their stories. I spoke to two strangers on the phone, and while that at first made me slightly nervous, I would now love to call up as many people as possible to hear their stories. The more people I spoke to, the better I became figuring out what questions to ask.

Many people intern in The Vegetarian Resource Group office for months, so I wondered if I was going to get a version that felt curtailed. That didn’t happen at all; I believe that someone interning here for one week would receive multiple experiences and a feel for non-profit work. I found myself learning more than I bargained for, with Charles emailing me and placing in my office mailbox interesting articles about non-profits and publishing, and even just through overhearing the conversations happening in the office.

While I felt immersed and busy from the beginning to the end, there was time for enjoyment. One time, someone brought bagels for lunch, and we all ate in the kitchen and talked about life. On my second to last week, we all had take-out Indian cuisine for lunch, and I discovered a love for spicy potatoes. I’m leaving this internship with more recipes, new favorite foods, greater understanding, and more experience. I doubt this will be the last of my experience with non-profit work, but I’m very glad it was the first.

For information about internships, see:
To support VRG internships, join The Vegetarian Resource Group at:
For information about VRG scholarships, see:

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