Note from the Coordinators

Thoughts from a vegan teenager

Debra Wasserman
Charles Stahler

This month we are devoting the space in this column to thoughts offered by Sarah Blum, an 18-year-old vegan, now working part-time for VRG. In Sarah's own words:

A lot has changed since the beginning days of The Vegetarian Resource Group. As a life-long member (I was born a month after the group formed), I've seen the number of members increase exponentially from fewer than 20 to over 17,000. Vegetarianism has become so popular that it's hard to believe that as short as 10 years ago, many people weren't even aware of what the word meant.

My parents could be considered pioneers of veganism in the US, raising my brother and me on a vegan diet from birth in the early 1980's. At the time, there weren't any alternative meats or soy cheeses, just tofu and occasionally soy ice cream. All the foods we ate were made from scratch, including a lot of baby food processed in the blender.

As a pre-schooler, I went to a private school where vegetarianism wasn't so uncommon, and I really didn't see much meat around school. However, when I was five, we moved to a farm in a very rural area, surrounded by dairy farms and slaughterhouses. Lunchtime at my new school was a nightmare. The children had never heard of vegetarianism and were incessantly asking about my diet. If I forgot my lunch, I went hungry, since the only alternative was PB&J and a slice of cheese. It was common among my friends to have birthday parties in McDonald's and I often didn't want to go because I knew I'd have to pack a lunch. Even relatives outside my immediate family would try to give me bacon or an egg because they thought I wasn't being raised in a healthy manner. The prevalent attitude was that this was a phase or a fad, not a real alternative, and certainly not an acceptable way to live.

Although it started out tough, life in the country became much easier with the availability of meat analogs. The first soy hot dog became available when I was around seven or eight. It wasn't even comparable to the ones made today. It looked like a hot dog, not a piece of tofu, and to me that was all that mattered. Once soy products were introduced into local groceries and restaurants, the popularity of vegetarianism soared. By the time I was in middle school it was "cool" to be a vegan, and some of my friends were following suit.

Being a teen vegetarian is much easier today than when I was younger. There are dozens of books and resources that have recipes for those teens who must cook for themselves or need advice on nutrition. Supermarkets are also starting to carry meat analogs and soy cheese, usually alongside the produce or frozen foods. Since vegetarianism is growing so popular, teens also have one thing I truly missed as a kid: other veggie friends. It's nice to know there are other teens out there with the same morals, facing the same daily hardships. As vegetarianism increases, perhaps fast food chains will capitalize on the trend. Maybe one day in the not-so-distant future, a vegan child will enjoy her birthday eating veggie burgers in the local McDonald's.

VRG now has an e-mail newsletter for parents and kids. For information go to Also, watch for the next Vegetarian Journal, where we will share the results of a Roper Poll that VRG recently sponsored to determine the number of children that are vegan or vegetarian today. Enjoy the holiday season!

Debra Wasserman & Charles Stahler

Coordinators of The Vegetarian Resource Group