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