An Easy Way to Save Thousands of Animals

Do you want to invite your pre-vegan friends, neighbors, relatives, and coworkers to try plant-based foods? Are you short a few hundred chairs at your dining room table? I’ve got the solution. Use your local grocery store!

A few months ago, after a friend told me about a vegan event at a Whole Foods in Minnesota, I wrote a letter to the Marketing Director at my local Whole Foods Market to suggest holding a “Vegan Day” with different food samples, cooking demos, and information about household products, cosmetics, shampoos, and other items not tested on animals.

I met with various members of the Whole Foods team to iron out the details and after some negotiation over the dates, times, and logistics of the event, they agreed to host a “Vegan Block Party” inside the store during which vegan vendors would provide samples to customers and Whole Foods staff would hold cooking demos, serve prepared food, and share other information to help people learn about the benefits of plant-based foods.

As part of the process, I provided a list of sample foods I thought would interest mainstream meat-eaters. I was less interested in providing whole fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts and more interested in providing samples of food that could replace chicken, hamburgers, steak, hot dogs, cheese, and milk in similar form since they comprise the diet of the average consumer. Although I eat whole foods, effective advocacy requires us to put ourselves in the shoes of others and unfortunately not everyone shares my fervor for kale. My samples list included Gardein, Dr. Praegers, Whole Foods Chickenless Patties and veggie hot dogs, Beyond Meat, Van’s Dairy and Egg-Free Waffles and French Toast Sticks, So Delicious Ice Cream, Blue Diamond Almond Milk with raw cereal, Daiya cheese, and many more. The team also challenged each department to prepare a vegan dish.

The hundreds of people who attended the event appeared to enjoy it so hopefully it planted some seeds of compassion. It was a joy to watch people taste the food and express such enthusiasm for it. As usual, they couldn’t believe it was not derived from an animal. The most popular item was the Beyond Meat vegan pot pie! I wore my Mercy for Animals “Ask me why I’m vegetarian” t-shirt which invited several meaningful conversations. Here are a few pictures from the event. I hope this story and these photos inspire you to consider holding a similar event in your hometown.

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You’re probably wondering how holding this event at your local grocery store could save thousands of animals’ lives. The average meat-eater consumes 198 animals every year. If you reach a few people who make the transition and they reach a few people and so on, the impact of your event will save animals exponentially. While it is difficult to quantify, it is easy to imagine.

Special thanks to Katie and Matt at Whole Foods for leading the event and thanks to all the incredible Whole Foods team for their help, especially my friend Taylor who served the vegan beer and is now celebrating her first week as a vegan! If you decide to hold your own “Vegan Block Party,” consider advertising the event in your community. You can distribute fliers, invite VIPs (Vegans-In-Progress), post it on Twitter, and create a Facebook event page. A big turnout may inspire more events.

The success of this event inspired me to bring it to my local Publix. I met with the manager yesterday and he embraced the idea. The planning for a Publix Vegan Block Party is underway. I hope you will all join the party at a grocery store near you.

Andrew Kirschner, Ed.D., is a  volunteer animal advocate. He writes a blog, Kirschner’s Korner, to help raise awareness about issues affecting the global community to make the world a more humane place. To receive new articles via email, enter your email in the “Follow Blog Via Email” link at the top right of the blog.

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6 Responses to An Easy Way to Save Thousands of Animals

  1. pitamatou says:

    Thank you, Andrew, for the name of some products I haven’t tried yet. I’m fairly new at this, so I am always looking for new products and recipes.

  2. Janna Leoff says:

    This is incredible Andrew…the vegan pot pie looks yummy! 

  3. Barry Gill says:

    Hello Andrew,

    What a fabulous idea!

    My wife and I are “pre-vegan” and have been reducing our dairy and egg intake as we head towards becoming vegan.

    One of the biggest challenges we found in the beginning was that we had no idea what to shop for so what should ostensibly be a low cost lifestyle suddenly became expensive purely because of our ignorance.

    What we found we were doing with every meal was trying to build a meat-alike meal that echoed our view of a meal, main slab of something with some sides.
    Because we had no background understanding of what meals without animal were, we would default to salad. Boring. VERY boring.
    So what we did was we PLANNED.
    We went and bought three cookbooks and started planning our week’s meals in advance. Yes, this sounds like it takes the excitement out of cooking, but let’s face it, most people probably have 10 dishes that they rotate and think of that as spontaneous…

    What we ended up with was an exciting taste journey that has had us not repeating a single meal in the past 4 months!
    We’ve been making notes about what we liked, how difficult it was to get the ingredients, time to prepare, variations etc and have managed to keep our journey to veganism exciting and fulfilling.

    For me, one of the major successes of this way of doing things is that we have not once ever missed meat because the meals we have been making have not been meat-alikes. Nothing we have had has tried to pretend to have meat, none of them have relied on specially crafted fake meat.

    Ok, our one caveat is that we are working off of three cook books at this stage.
    1. Veganomicon
    2. Easy Vegan
    3. River Cottage Veg Everyday

    The River Cottage Veg Everyday book is NOT vegan, it is vegetarian and has many meals with egg and dairy but it has helped us get my son to move towards a meat free life.

    So, if you are ever setting this type of thing up again, I suggest you make flyers that help people understand what they need to shop for to make a week’s food and let them see the variety and cost of the choice that is before them :)

    B

    • Thank you for sharing your inspirational story Barry. I asked if we could pass out Vegetarian Starter Kits at the event but unfortunately my request was denied.

      There are many wonderful vegan cookbooks available. You might also find some fun recipes on vegweb.

      Keep up the great work and don’t heistate to contact me if you have any questions.

      Andrew

  4. barbara bear says:

    hey andrew! i remember reading this before and am just re-reading since you shared the link in a fb post. i thought my comment would make more sense here than in the fb thread: i was thinking about your request for pre-packaged type food and then w.f. deciding to have their staff make their own concoctions. i wonder if it would work next time (if there is a next time :) to talk with them about how the product sales will go up for each product sampled out–you know, give them a monetary incentive to want to sample out nice cream, tofurky sausages and other prepared foods (which most people are more likely to rely upon rather than a home cooked meals these days anyway). it would save their staff time and effort and most likely result in much higher sales.

    one other thing i’ve found is that if i just bring in veg starter guides without asking, the staff doesn’t say anything–so for me, it’s been better not to ask in advance for permission to offer information. in one case, i started with vegan outreach’s “guide to cruelty-free eating” (which is pretty tame photo-wise) and when we were invited back, i brought v.o.’s “compassionate choices” (pretty graphic) the next time. this was at a natural foods store in the middle of cattle country and no one complained. the staff member i was working with even mentioned that it was nice that we could “get our message out”.

    i apologize if i’m offering too much unsolicited advice. just want to share my experience if it might be of help to you–and the animals, of course! keep up the great work! i love reading your stories!

    • Thank you for your feedback Barbara. Re: your first suggestion, I informed them in advance of the benefits. Re: your second suggestion, I wouldn’t do anything to strain my relationship with the management team but I appreciate the strategy.

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