The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

My Time as a Vegetarian Resource Group Intern

Posted on August 16, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

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By Heather Francis, VRG Intern

My first day at The Vegetarian Resource Group was technically in May when I attended a Dietetic Internship Day. That day I met Charles and Debra who co-direct The VRG and ate a ton of vegan goodies, such as blueberry “cheesecake,” brought to the VRG office by 10 University of Maryland dietetic interns (working towards their Registered Dietitian credentials). My first real day began in the end of June when Charles gave me the tour of the VRG office. We must have spent hours talking about the history of The Vegetarian Resource Group, and about the vegan movement. I was pleasantly surprised to find a hidden library in the back of the office full of nutrition, animal rights, and environmental books, as well as veggie cookbooks.

I definitely learned a lot about the vegetarian movement, and how there are “extremists” and those who simply float along. I learned more about what it means to be a vegan and how to approach those who aren’t. I used a lot of patience for one of my projects when it came to trying to find out whether or not the National Parks in America offered vegan meals, which another intern and I are still working on. I spent my time writing articles, and spent time packaging and fixing brochures sent out from the office.

What I found most beneficial about the internship, is the overall experience. I have never lived in a city. I have never rented a room from someone I had never met. I didn’t know what it was like to have everything at arm’s reach. I was fully independent, and the work during the internship was all on me to complete. I even created my own schedule and followed it during the summer. The schedule itself changed around due to projects popping up and timing, but I was able to complete all of what I had set out to do plus more. I got to try almost every vegan restaurant in Baltimore, and even traveled to Sticky Fingers in DC and Glory Donughts in Frederick, MD.

I am extremely thankful for the conversations I was able to have within the office. I have spent numerous times engulfed in conversation with my fellow interns or VRG staff about societal and political issues. It is through these conversations I have learned the most. If there is anything I can say I will always remember, it will be Charles’ favorite saying, “take everything with a grain of salt.” Just because a product says vegan, doesn’t make it vegan. Just because someone says they’re vegetarian doesn’t mean they are. Yet, whether a product or a person is or isn’t 100% vegan shouldn’t only matter as long as there is still contribution and direction within the animal rights movement.

Overall, I will miss interning at The Vegetarian Resource Group, but I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and experience. I will continue to volunteer and stay involved with this impactful organization, as I’m already scheduled to work a booth in November near my hometown in New Jersey. I found that working for a non-profit, specifically this one, there is a lot of work but at the end of day I can go home knowing I am making a difference in an important movement. I will head back to Jersey with more knowledge within the vegan movement, and be able to help others focusing on trying to do justice in the animal rights world. I am in school for dietetics, and this internship did not turn me away from dietetics but instilled more reason why I should become one.

I move back into school shortly, and my first week I will be meeting with the Senior Director of Residential Dining to go over the plans for the new vegan/vegetarian menu. I know I will utilize the tools and resources I have discovered the past two months interning for The Vegetarian Resource Group. It doesn’t end here though, as the animal rights movement is growing and there is more to be done and to learn. Living the vegan lifestyle is about compassion, and showing compassion to each person one encounters. Whether or not someone is vegetarian or vegan is not all that matters. Whether or not a company is vegetarian or vegan is not all that matters. Compassion matters, and that’s what the movement is about. The Vegetarian Resource Group makes this extremely clear in all that they do, and I am blessed to have been able to be a part of it.

For information about VRG internships, go to http://www.vrg.org/student/index.php
To support The Vegetarian Resource Group scholarship, internships, and other outreach to young people, donate at www.vrg.org/donate

SILVER LEAF

Posted on August 15, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

According to the Times of India, The Food Safety and Standards Authority
of India (FSSAI) has banned the use of any material of animal origin in
silver leaf (silver foil) (chandi ka warq), commonly used in
confectionaries and sweets. “The silver leaf is prepared by placing
small thin strips of silver between the intestines of cows and buffaloes
and continuously hammering these bundles for up to eight hours a day till
desired thickness of silver leaf is achieved,” an official said.

See: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/FSSAI-bans-silver-leaf-of-animal-origin-in-food-items/articleshow/53514713.cms

VRG Presents a Healthy Veggie Diet to Low-Income Youth In West Baltimore

Posted on August 12, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

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By Casey Brown and Heather Francis, VRG Interns

The Vegetarian Resource Group had the opportunity to volunteer at Will of Wisdom Wellness Center, a program of Tuttie’s Place, which is an impressive non-profit organization located in West Baltimore. The center offers a summer camp to low-income students of various ages for six weeks. This summer their aim was in educating the kids about a healthy lifestyle and diet. Ayesha, the director at Tuttie’s Place invited The Vegetarian Resource Group to come speak about health in relation to being a vegetarian. Three VRG interns, Casey Brown, Heather Francis, and Alicia Hueckmann, along with Sam Stahler, a volunteer, spoke.

While there, we had a discussion with about thirty students, ages ranging from five to eighteen years old. We began by asking what they already knew about vegetarian and vegan diets/lifestyles. Many of them were familiar with the terms, though out of the thirty kids there was only one student who cut out some type of animal product from their diet. This was a high school student who was raised a pescatarian. While discussing the topic of nutrients, the kids thought someone who chose a vegetarian diet would have trouble incorporating protein into their diet. One young kid, in about fourth grade told us he couldn’t live without steak. We were able to explain, along with a young girl in the audience who knew, how protein comes from numerous sources such as beans, lentils, tofu, and whole grains. A few kids asked us what tofu was, which surprised us since tofu is something we have been used to eating in our diet and since we are surrounded by those who know what tofu is. The young kids were surprisingly also curious whether or not vegetarians were allowed to eat french fries, seeds, soda, and fruit juices. During our discussion, we were able to explain to them vegetarians could choose to eat those foods, along with many other vegan-friendly foods.

We also asked the students why they think people would go vegetarian, and most of the students only thought people chose to change their diets to begin eating healthier. We were able to explain some of the health benefits of going veggie, including a lower risk for many diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. We mentioned how many people also choose to eat less or no meat due to the inhumane treatment of animals along with the negative environmental impacts. We wish we could have gone into more detail on the ethical side and environmental side of veganism since veganism encompasses all three of them, but they are each a different type of presentation. Hopefully, in the future we can return with the intent on educating the kids on the mistreatment of animals.

While the students did not seem interested in committing to a fully vegetarian or vegan diet, many expressed they would be able to try it for one day out of the week.

After presenting, we had the kids make banana nice cream. We froze enough bananas to feed thirty kids and offered toppings alongside the dessert. Using a Yonanas machine, each of the students made their own bowl of banana ice cream and topped it with their choice of strawberries, dairy-free chocolate chips, sprinkles, shredded coconut, walnuts, and/or peanut butter. The students enjoyed making the ice cream themselves, and they all seemed to love the healthy, dairy-free alternative. They were eager to try it and were excited to share the recipe with their family once they got home. The student who said he could not live without steak, shared with us how he was nervous because he expected the ice cream to consist of tofu, but was instead surprised to find he loved the creamy banana texture. The ice cream recipe uses only frozen bananas either processed through a Yonanas machine, or blended in a blender. For information on the Yonanas machine see: http://yonanas.com/

After we cleaned up the kitchen, Ayesha, the director took us for a tour through the center. We learned the center is in conjunction with Tuttie’s Place, which is a Group home for males in the area. The Will of Wisdom Wellness Center is not a group home, but a program for students in schools in multiple schools in Baltimore. There are three classrooms, 5-8 years old, 9-13 years old, and 14-21 years old. Right now there is a waiting list for students to be introduced into the program. The center helps students in high school with college applications, tying ties, job interviews, and basic life skills. Right now there is an after-care program, and summer camp, and they are working on including a before-care program as well for the upcoming school year. The center makes a tremendous contribution within their community, and we are thankful we were able to come volunteer and make an impact on these students-whether it is big or small.

In the future, The Vegetarian Resource Group plans to table at booths and come speak with the students again about veganism. We found a lot of kids don’t know what it means to be vegetarian or vegan, so by staying involved with this program we will be able to spread awareness and share our resources with the students about veggie diets.

For more information on Tuttie’s Place and The Will of Wisdom Center in Baltimore, Maryland, please visit: http://tuttiesplace.org/np/

To intern with The Vegetarian Resource Group, see http://www.vrg.org/student/index.php

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group outreach, donate at www.vrg.org/donate

The Vegetarian Resource Group will be at The Waverly Farmers Market in Baltimore this Saturday!

Posted on August 12, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

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VRG will have a booth at the Waverly Farmers Market in Baltimore this Saturday from 7am to noon. The market is located at 400 E. 32nd St, Baltimore, MD 21218 in the Waverly neighborhood near Charles Village. Come by and say hello and be sure to purchase some organic produce while attending this market!

Glory Doughnuts in Frederick, Maryland – Worth the Drive!

Posted on August 11, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

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Frederick is an hour drive from Baltimore, Maryland but that didn’t stop Alicia (another Vegetarian Resource Group intern) and I from traveling to Glory Doughnuts early on Friday morning. Since the moment I started working at The Vegetarian Resource Group, I had been told to find a way to sample these vegan doughnuts. We heard how amazing the doughnuts were from numerous people, but we also had been told that to be able to purchase a doughnut, we had to get there super early before they ran out. Our volunteer coordinator, Brigette, once traveled there to find the doughnuts sold out at 10 a.m. Instead she ordered cast iron pancakes, which she found to be phenomenal. She wasn’t even mad they were sold out of doughnuts, because of how awesome her pancakes were.

Alicia and I were determined to get there before the doughnuts sold out, so we left at about 7:30 am to get there around 8:30 am. The drive from Baltimore was surrounded by trees and no traffic bothered us on the way there. Reaching Frederick, we were impressed by the beauty the small historic village embodied. When we found Glory Doughnuts on the corner of Church Street, I silently squealed of joy. There were small red tables with chairs on the outskirts of the shop.

When we walked in, there was no one in the store and so we took our time looking around the doughnut shop and looked at each doughnut, which the case still held a lot. A few minutes went by, and a rush of people came in behind us. There were seven options to choose from:

Key Lime Pie
Whiskey Crème
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Cabana (coconut)
Chocolate Frosted
Rosewater Glazed
Traditional Chocolate w/ Jimmies

I purchased eight doughnut:, two of Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, Rosewater Glazed, and Traditional Chocolate w/ Jimmies. Then I got a chocolate frosted and Cabana Coconut. No I did not eat them all in one sitting…but I probably could have. The doughnuts are $3.50 each for the deluxe, and $3 for the classic, and they are worth every penny.

Alicia ate two of them before noon–one Key Lime Pie and Traditional Chocolate w/ Jimmies. They had a perfect texture and tasted better than a simple doughnut from a store. The Rosewater Glazed is a hit. Since Brigette wasn’t able to try the doughnuts last time she traveled there, we brought her one and she indulged in the rose water. She was expecting it be super sweet, but instead complimented how it tasted as one would expect a rose to. A unique flavor as Debra (VRG Co-Director) put it.

I highly recommend the drive to anyone who is considering trying Glory Doughnuts. The staff were extremely friendly and the atmosphere of the small shop made me want to eat there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The biggest recommendation I can make is to get to Glory Doughnuts as early as possible, as they sell out their doughnuts quickly from what I’ve heard. After traveling back to the office, I went to go like their Facebook page and saw they were sold out by 10 am that day. Even if they are sold out though, I wouldn’t be bummed out because their menu has amazing options such as the cast iron pancakes and salted apple pie stuffed French toast.

Personally, I haven’t had a doughnut since I became a vegan, which has been over a year and a half ago. I haven’t complained about it, but when I heard that a vegan doughnut shop was in an easy reach from me, I could not pass up the opportunity to taste these famous vegan treats.

For more information on Glory Doughnuts please visit their website: http://www.glorydoughnuts.com/
And their facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GloryDoughnuts/home

If you would like to learn more about dining out in Maryland as a vegetarian/vegan, go to the VRG’s online Maryland restaurant guide at: http://www.vrg.org/restaurant/Maryland.php or visit our national restaurant guide at: www.vrg.org/restaurant/index.php

Eating Veggie Indian Cuisine at Mango Grove in Columbia, Maryland

Posted on August 10, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

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By Heather Francis, VRG Intern

There was no wait or pause walking into Mango Grove (a vegetarian restaurant), in Columbia, Maryland. We were seated right away, and we were then pulled right over to the lunch buffet to start eating.

When told I would be eating at an Indian lunch buffet, I was expecting limited options. Instead I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of dishes that were prepared. As we were being seated, we were asked if we were vegetarian or vegan. Then following the question, we were shown which of the items on the buffet weren’t vegan. There were only two, which left a whole line of options for us vegans and no complaints.

My favorite part was the huge tray of channa masala on the buffet line. My first plate (of two) consisted of tomato rice, broccoli, channa masala, cauliflower curry, mushroom and potato curry, potato pancake, and their vegan version of naan. It took me awhile to get through the first plate, but I scraped off every last bite. I am a personal fan of curry, so for me, it was easy to devour the food in front of me. Adding a second plate was difficult, but I powered through. Even though I was full two bites in, I couldn’t let the food go to waste. The only motive I had moving forward during consuming the meal was the fact I was eating a plate full of vegetables and it was delicious.

The ambiance of the restaurant added to the perfect lunch, as the staff were superb in providing service. Our glasses never stayed empty, and once we finished a plate, they were cleared right away.

Overall I would have to say, this Indian restaurant integrated into my list of my favorite Indian places to eat. Even though it’s a half an hour away from the city of Baltimore and Washington D.C, it’s a perfect place to check out if you are craving healthy, spicy, and satisfying Indian food. It’s 100% worth the drive. The all-you-can eat lunch buffet is available every weekday from 11:30 to 3 p.m, and it’s only $11.95 a person. With the amount of food that is given, it is definitely worth it for a super filling meal.

For more information on this restaurant please visit: http://themangogrove.net/index.html

If you would like to learn more about dining veggie dining options in the USA and Canada, go to the VRG’s online restaurant guide at www.vrg.org/restaurant/index.php

To volunteer with maintaining our restaurant guide, contact Brigette at vrg@vrg.org

How You Can Help The Vegetarian Resource Group When Shopping for Back-to-School Supplies through Amazon

Posted on August 10, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

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Support The Vegetarian Resource Group when you shop for back-to-school items (or any Amazon products). Go to http://smile.amazon.com/ch/52-1279034 and Amazon donates money to the VRG! Thanks!

The Vegetarian Resource Group at Hamilton Street Festival in Baltimore

Posted on August 09, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

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By Alicia Hückmann, VRG intern visiting from Germany

On Saturday, July 30th, Heather Francis (another intern at The Vegetarian Resource Group) and I set up a booth at the 23rd Hamilton Street Festival (Baltimore) in order to promote veganism. Among others, we brought brochures and several copies of our Vegetarian Journal that we handed out for free, inexpensive books, DVDs, and stickers. Since Hamilton is known to be a neighborhood inhabited by people from diverse backgrounds, it was not very surprising that both children and adults, teenagers and elderly people would come to our booth to take some info material and have a chat with us. While some only stopped to let us know they could never live without meat, others were actually interested in learning more about veggie lifestyles. One lady especially appreciated the amount of free resources we provided, as she is currently making the transition to a meat-free diet. We even met an entire vegetarian family whose eldest daughter was interested in interning at our office.

Apart from the The VRG, Hamilton also welcomed other non-profits like the local Planned Parenthood and the Black Lives Matter group as well as representatives of political parties like the Republican and the Green party. The majority of the booths, however, belonged to artists and vendors advertising and selling their handmade or vintage products including jewelry made from cutlery, recycled t-shirts, or grotesque paintings. A broad variety of bands and musicians added to the atmosphere of this fantastic event. Last but not least, there was a vegan hot dog stand thanks to which no vegan had to starve amidst barbecue grills and burger vendors.

Even though the festival was planned to take place between 11am and 7 pm, many participants (including us) decided to leave after 4 hours due to very heavy rain. Nevertheless, Hamilton Street Festival was a great experience for both of us and we are already looking forward to having a booth at the Waverly Farmer’s Market (Baltimore) this coming Saturday on August 13, 2016.

To volunteer at future booths, in the office, or other ways, contact Brigette at vrg@vrg.org
To support The Vegetarian Resource Group outreach, donate at www.vrg.org/donate

Paid Workers Needed at Veggie Booths During Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore September 22-24,2016

Posted on August 09, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

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Reliable, responsible workers in the Baltimore area needed to assist veg manufacturers in their booths at the Natural Products Expo East at the Baltimore Convention Center on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, September 22, 23, 24. Must be available to work all 3 days. Paid positions. If interested, please email veggourmet@aol.com

Tips on Trying to Talk to Others About Veganism

Posted on August 08, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

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By Heather Francis, VRG Intern

1. Don’t introduce yourself as a vegan.
Every conversation you partake is not necessarily an opportunity to press down on veganism — “My name is Jo, and I’m a vegan.” The vegan conversation is bound to be a topic of conversation at any party, barbecue, picnic, restaurant, or any place food is involved. Eventually, you will ask the person at the grill if they have a veggie burger or someone will notice your plate is filled with salad and fruit instead of chicken wings. Then you will get the question, “Do you eat meat?” and the conversation will begin. This will give you an advantage because they won’t be turned off. Instead their mind will be intrigued. So l recommend you don’t introduce yourself as a vegan. Eventually people will figure it out. Eventually it will come up, and the conversation won’t be forced. Even if it’s your first time talking with someone, you shouldn’t feel the need to broadcast or unveil your veganism.

2. Ask questions.
When someone asks you why you’re a vegan, you can ask them about their diet. You will be able to make more of an impact by understanding their choice of diet, rather than constantly talking about your own beliefs. Remember everyone is different. Some believe hunting is a sport. Some grew up eating kosher. Some live with a family where milk is served with each meal. The way someone chooses to eat emphasizes certain aspects and importance of them. It’s important to ask and listen, rather than spend the entire conversation talking about why veganism is necessary or it’s the only way to eat. Personally, I have noticed the most change when I ask multiple questions.

3. Be Honest.

  • Talk about how your family/friends reacted
  • Explain how easy or hard your transition was
  • Explain what foods you can and don’t eat
  • Show them different options or ways they can eat vegan
  • Say “I don’t know,” if you can’t answer any questions
  • Refer them to documentaries, groups, and/or articles on online

  • 4. Remember how you thought before veganism.
    Unless you grew up without eating animals and/or dairy products and eggs, there was a time where you felt you couldn’t live without meat. So remember before encountering a person in a conversation that they are in that same place. Frustration may happen especially when talking to those who have Sunday dinners with their families which consist only of chicken Parmesan or baby back ribs. For some people they could be more willing to change their diet, but not everyone will. Just try to recall moments where you felt you couldn’t go without meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, etc.

    5. Follow Up.
    Conversations shouldn’t end after an hour at a coffee house, especially with such an important issue as animal rights. The biggest impact made is with an ongoing conversation. If you meet someone at a party who seems interested in veganism, get their cell phone number or email so you will be able to send them links to websites or articles they might be interested in. Try getting together with someone again and take them to a vegan restaurant. You don’t even need to keep talking about animal rights, just let them know that if they were ever interested or wanted more information they could rely on you.

    6. Don’t talk.
    I find this tip very useful with family members and close friends. By not talking, it creates a huge and long lasting impact. I know with a lot of my friends and a few family members who have decided to become vegetarian/vegan, it wasn’t because I told them to or gave them tips on how to. Sure, I influenced them because they were around my veganism, but they decided for themselves to become vegetarian or vegan. Of course, I’m not saying don’t talk about issues that are important that you want to share with them, but I mean stand back on trying to directly influence them. By just continuing your day to day life and setting an example without preaching or trying to convert, it will make an indirect, but also deep impact in helping your friends and family to eat less meat. They’ll be eating a burger, while you’re eating a veggie burger. Making comments or faces might only make them want to eat another burger rather than think about trying a bite of your veggie burger. Also, while discussing veganism constantly, it could help someone decide to convert, but they may feel like it wasn’t their own decision. The vegan movement is growing and it’s important to make an impact that will stick.

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