Help Create a Veggie World

My Internship with the VRG
By Casey Brown,
University of Maryland Nutrition Student

Although I had been volunteering with The Vegetarian Resource Group online since early 2015, I first met the staff in May at the Green Festival in Washington, D.C. Later that month, I came to the office for the Dietetic Intern Day, where I met the dietetic interns from the University of Maryland, College Park. It was a great opportunity to connect with others in my field. It was also an eye-opening event because I realized that not all dietitians are familiar with vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. It was exciting to know that this was one of the interns' rotations and that they would go home with many resources and an increased knowledge of vegan lifestyles thanks to The VRG.

My first official day in the office was in early June 2016: Charles gave me a tour of the office and a huge stack of vegan books. He told me the history of The VRG and explained the multitude of things they do. That evening, my family asked me how my day was. I tried to explain everything The VRG does, but I just wanted to say "everything." They do product reviews, restaurant guides, outreach, publish books, supply tons of resources, etc. I simply could not sum it all up.

One of my favorite projects was cooking vegan dishes for Our Daily Bread, a soup kitchen in Baltimore City. It felt good to donate healthy, delicious vegan meals to those in need. Their volunteer coordinator told us that more than one third of the people they serve preferred the vegetarian options! This was exciting news, and I am hopeful that others in the community will donate vegan dishes to their organization.

There were two other interns with me over the summer: Alicia Hückmann and Heather Francis. Together, we visited Tuttie's Place, where we met 30 students aged 5-17. We taught them about the health benefits of veggie diets. We shared a simple vegan banana ice cream recipe with the kids, and the majority loved it and wanted to make it at home. It was rewarding doing outreach, educating the community, and seeing the impact we were making in children's lives. They may not have wanted to be vegan after our event, but they were more educated, aware, and open to it. Many of them were hoping to implement a meat-free day within their households every week!

I worked on many other projects, including a write-up of how to be vegan on a budget, providing tips for parents whose teen is making the transition, compiling nutritional information about all the different brands of vegan cheeses, and more. These were all interesting to work on and informative. I hope they will help many other people.

In addition to all of my projects, I volunteered at many booths around Baltimore and Washington, D.C. These included the Taking Action for Animals (TAFA) conference, Green Festival, a farmers market, Vegan Soulfest, DC Vegfest, the VSDC's Life-Affirming Thanksgiving, and others! I enjoyed each of these booths and the unique audiences they attracted. It was amazing to connect with so many people who were either vegetarian, vegan or interested in making the transition. It was equally exciting and necessary to educate others in the community who were not knowledgeable about vegan and vegetarian diets.

I am so grateful for all of the connections I made during my internship. The VRG staff are all so kind, helpful, and welcoming, and it is always exciting to come into the office! While it was considered a summer internship, I have continued volunteering with The VRG. This internship has helped me make new connections with fellow vegans and dietetics students, learn new ways to be an activist in my community, and grow my knowledge and passion for veganism.