The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

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

Posted on August 12, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


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:

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:

To intern with The Vegetarian Resource Group, see

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group outreach, donate at

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