Guest post: Support Food Empowerment Project by eating vegan food at Saturn Cafe. It’s easy! »
Hey, Bay Area vegans! Come on out to Saturn Café in Berkeley on Wednesday, Feb. 20, and 10 percent of your (vegan) meal will go to help fund the all-volunteer Food Empowerment Project.
If you aren’t familiar with Vegansaurus favorite FEP, we’re a vegan food justice organization focused on issues like food access, environmental racism, and workers’ rights. Here are the event details:
Come any time between 11 a.m. and midnight with the printable flyer on the page and Saturn will donate 10 percent of the cost of your vegan meal to help fund our efforts to create a more just and equitable food systems.
Volunteers will be hanging out from 6 to 10 p.m. if you want to learn more about how to get involved.
There will also be flyers up front assuring your 10 percent, so don’t worry about printing. Just come hang out! FEP’s Lauren Ornelas will be there, and we’ll have literature and what have you, but mostly you should just eat some food and say hi. Saturn Café is located at 2175 Allston Way in Berkeley.
Product review: Nibmor ethical vegan chocolate got FEP-approved just for this post! »
I love Nibmor chocolate. First of all, it tastes damn good, ticking all the boxes to make my vegan chocoholic heart happy: free from refined sugar, vegan, and organic. The two flavor varieties Nibmor sent me, original and mint, were both rich and smooth, the right balance of dark, fruity cacao and creamy richness.
But while Nibmor tastes like joy incarnate, what I may love most about it is that when I told the company I couldn’t review its chocolate until it was certified ethical vegan by the Food Empowerment Project, Nibmor jumped to the occasion, contacted FEP, and became certified! FEP’s Lauren Ornelas just did an amazing interview about the dark side of chocolate; I highly recommend listening to it!
Nibmor is truly ethical and delicious dark chocolate. Get some online, or at Rainbow Grocery and other local health food stores.
David Lebovitz’s chocolate sorbet, from his book The Perfect Scoop! Kristen Miglore at Food52 has the recipe and it looks gorgeous. Obviously, you conscientious angels would make it with vegan chocolate on the Food Empowerment Project’s chocolate list, so please try this recipe AT ONCE. Eat your way through summer!
Tip: While you’re at Food52, check out the recipe for fried asparagus with miso dressing, from Nobu’s Vegetarian Cookbook. Holy moly. Laura’s right, frying is the superlative food preparation.
[photo by Nicole Franzen for Food52]
Update on the Real Bar! We knew it was vegan and yummy but we didn’t know if it was on the Food Empowerment Project’s green light list. I will keep you in suspense no longer!: FEP says it’s all good! Eat with reckless abandon! My words, not theirs.
Product Review: Endangered Species Vegan Chocolate! »
FEP is run by my friend and former co-worker Lauren Ornelas’ vegan advocacy nonprofit. While I interned at the Center For Environmental Health several years ago, she and I became acquainted through her work at Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. I saw Lauren speak at Vegan Prom in San Francisco, and am pretty much in awe of her dedication to protecting humans, animals, and the planet. Seriously, look her up! I am also so inspired by her work to promote ethical vegan chocolate companies that do not trade in human or animal suffering.
According to the Endangered Species media kit, the company donates 10 percent of net profits to support animal protection and sound environmental practices. And they also identify themselves as non-GMO, and 100 percent ethically traded.
Cacao good for people an animals? Sounds dreamy! But is their chocolate delicious? Yes! Sweetened with beet sugar, which is a better choice than refined white sugar, if you ask me (though I must admit tend to prefer raw cacao and raw sweeteners, being a good Vegansaurus raw correspondent!), the varying degrees of cacao intensity do deliver a punch. My favorite is the 88 percent dark bar, which is pretty damn close to pure cacao. It’s the darkest that ES sells, and comes with information on black panthers inside the package. How convenient! More cacao equals less sugar, and a greater benefit of magnesium, antoxidants. It also satisfies chocoholism. Enjoy whatever vegan (non-milk chocolate) version you wish! Note: Vegan chocolate by ES is very clearly labeled as “vegan,” so just make sure you see that on the label and you’re good to go!
Other great varieties of Endangered Species dark chocolate include their dark chocolate with cherry, dark chocolate with orange, and peppermint squares. They even sell individually-wrapped bite-sized chocolates that are perfect for stuffing in lunches/your unisex handbag/bra. Yay for ethical chocolate!
*Note: This post originally stated that Endangered Species vegan chocolates were approved by the Food Empowerment Project. In fact, it is Endangered Species organic chocolates that received FEP approval. Vegansaurus regrets the error.
Clif Bar + child slavery = sad everyone »
My coworker Andrew’s desk drawer.
As energy bars go, Clif is totally my favorite. Chocolate-dipped coconut Luna bars are essentially dessert, Clif shots and blocks power my running, and those Mojo bars are addictive. Part of the reason I’m such a Clif groupie is that almost everything they make is vegan, holla.
But it turns out Clif may have something to hide [pdf] about where it gets its chocolate. At the very least, the company is being disappointingly closed-lipped about its sourcing. Wanna bug them with me?
Since last May, the Food Empowerment Project has been asking Clif to disclose the country it gets its chocolate from. That’s because some countries, especially in West Africa, have high prevalence of child slave labor on cacao plantations, and no one wants to support child slavery. (Unless it involves getting me a beer, but that’s probably not the kind of stuff we mean here.) Clif ain’t talking. That doesn’t necessarily mean your Clif Crunch bar supports child cruelty, buy wouldn’t it be nice to know for sure? That’s FEP’s stance:
We all know why companies like Nike and Apple took so long to disclose information on their supply chains: because they had something to hide. But does Clif?
How could a company that prides itself on social responsibility choose to not be transparent about an issue as important as child slavery? What does Clif have to hide?
Join us in asking them.
You can email them, call them at (800) 254-3227, and write them at:
Clif Bar & Company
1451 66th St.
Emeryville, CA 94608
Let us know if you have questions and we would appreciate you sharing with us their response.
In the meantime, I’m cutting back to my Clif bar intake, which, as you know if you even read a third of this post, makes me very sad. Which brings me to my PS: what’s your favorite bar for hiking or running or snack or whatever?
Chickens are the 95 percent! »
Jan. 5 was National Bird Day, for which the Food Empowerment Project posted an amazing piece on chickens, who are the vast majority of animals used for food.
When discussing what to post on Facebook for National Bird Day on January 5, my partner and I agreed that although ducks and turkeys should be recognized, we should talk about chickens raised for meat. Why? Because of the 10 billion land animals killed for food in the U.S. each year, more than 9 billion of them are chickens. In fact, my partner said, they are the 95 percent, and that’s when the image you see was born.
Damn, that is sad. You hear so much about people giving up eating red meat for their health and you have to think, the chickens are still suffering. Now, this is a totally unresearched idea that I’m pulling straight out of my butt, but the amount of people I know who “just” eat chickens and/or fish often order the chicken and/or fish dishes when we’re out. It’s not like they get to tofu stir-fry, you know? If you eat that way, you’re not really helping animals; you’re just eating more dead chickens and fish.
Maybe giving up eating a few kinds of animals is part of your path to quitting altogether — and that’s rad! If it is, I’d think about that information up there, finish reading the Food Empowerment Project piece, and then ponder how awesome and special chickens are. Because they are SO RAD. Look how cute they are in sweaters! And how interesting and inquisitive they are, and how much they love dust baths! Then! Maybe just stop eating all the animals? There are SO MANY good vegan meats, especially ones that TASTE JUST LIKE CHICKEN—so really, there’s no reason to eat all that gross ol’ animal flesh. Do it, Rockapella!
Finally, this Mark Bittman piece about how American meat consumption is down is really hopeful. I wonder if that matches up with meat production at all? Or if the government is just buying off the excess and chucking it? Or you know, putting it into school lunches. So smart, our government! And it runs so well! Signed, SIR GRUMPS A LOT.
This is why you’re vegan: Your Halloween candy is made by slaves »
You read that article in Good last week by Kristen Howerton, about the big candy companies using child-slave labor to harvest the cocoa beans to make their chocolate; of course you did, you care about child-slave labor. It’s fucking disgusting, it’s outrageous, it’s major U.S. candy companies—“Hershey, Mars, Nestle, and the U.S. division of Cadbury“—directly profiting from child slaves. CHILD SLAVES
It’s also not the most shocking news we’ve ever heard. Nike, right? That scandal broke when I was in high school and I still can’t buy Nike. I read No Logo the year I graduated, and 11 years later (I’m an old), when my conscience feels weak, I still think about the international exploitation of people and animals, and think, yes, this is why I’m vegan.
U.S. candy companies did shock us this week when the New York Times reported on the Hershey Company’s exploitation of exchange students working in their factory IN HERSHEY, PA. Yes, for real: These people came over as Ph.D. candidates and were forced to work “physically arduous” jobs at $8 per hour with “steep deductions from their paychecks for housing, transportation and insurance.” They were kept isolated and poor, and the program’s sponsor ignored the students’ requests for help for months. Horrifying.
Sadie of Tiger Beatdown is sufficiently enraged. And what we—and our pal Kate Dollarhyde—would add to Sadie’s anger is relief, that being vegan, we don’t participate in the exploitation of animals, and now, because these companies don’t make vegan candy, we don’t participate in the exploitation of exchange students, either. Like it’s not enough to make the shitty chocolates from horrible cow’s milk, you have to force foreign engineering students to make the shitty chocolates, too? Hershey’s, you are the goddamn worst.
Fair Trade, you guys. It costs more because it isn’t made by LITERAL SLAVES. Thank goodness we’re vegan. If anyone wants to join us, we’re planning on taking over some abandoned suburban tract homes and growing our own food and never participating in the corporatocracy again.
Or you could just patronize companies on the Food Empowerment Project’s fair trade chocolate list. Might be simpler, though not nearly as fun.
Guest post: Food accessibility is a vegan issue »
I was sitting at my desk, staring at my coffee, when my co-worker walked in with a bag of cherries and said, “God, organic fruit at the farmers’ market is fucking expensive.”
At least we have a farmers’ market nearby selling local, organic fruit and vegetables, I thought, and my co-worker has the resources to buy some. When discussions of veganism and privilege come up–as they seem to be doing with increased frequency—there’s some understandable defensiveness from vegans, and some valid concerns that the “veganism is for rich white people” trope is both wrong and insulting to anyone not rich or white. But there remain striking differences food access across communities. This should concern everyone, but especially us veganism advocates.
A recent survey [pdf] by the very rad Food Empowerment Project (FEP) lays out the data. Looking at Santa Clara County specifically, they found that:
“On average, higher-income areas have twice as many locations with fresh fruits and vegetables compared to the lower-income areas…14 times more locations with frozen fruit and six times more locations with frozen vegetables.… In addition to being generally less available in lower-income areas, the variety of produce is also limited in these locations.”
Some of these findings are helpfully laid out in chart form:
Other sections point out things that should be obvious to those of us who live, work, or generally exist in urban cores, but are worth stating plainly: there are fundamental differences between supermarkets and small corner groceries; meat and dairy alternatives are virtually nonexistent in many communities, despite high levels of lactose-intolerance in some of those populations; that, along with being “cash-poor,” many providers in low-income communities and communities of color are “time-poor,” way too overstretched by multiple jobs and responsibilities to travel to a distant shop for decent produce, return home, and prepare dinner. The FEP study calls this “environmental racism.” Check out the full thing, along with their recommendations, here [pdf].
Your ability to make healthy food choices shouldn’t depend on your address or income, and lack of access to fruits and vegetables amounts to a public health crisis in many places. The growing trend of farmers’ markets accepting food stamps is a welcome development: by expanding access to good food rather than restricting access to junk, it’s also a much smarter, and less paternalistic and classist way to encourage people to eat well. (Another option would be to eat all the locavores, provided they were humanely put down, with reverence for all that they would provide us, but that’s a topic for another post.)
As vegans, it should matter to us especially. When we tell others to go vegan–which we should–it’s crucial to consider what barriers might stand in their way. Some are ideological, reflective of long-standing habits and assumptions, but some are more practical, like whether they can get to a market that sells non-gross apples. The ability to do so does mark a sort of privilege that needs to be recognized and dismantled, even if anti-vegan internet goofballs like to cite it for their own purposes.
And finally, concern about food security and access shouldn’t be the domain of a borderline-sociopathic “locavore” community that seems to raise these issues only to argue that we need to kill chickens in our yards. We shouldn’t cede that ground (sign a petition against at-home chicken-slaughter right now!). Everyone deserves decent food, produced sustainably, locally, and without poisons, and vegan advocates should be on the frontlines of that push. The FEP’s work is a good place to start.
Rick Kelley is a recent transplant to the Bay, having fled the brutal Minnesota winters for warmer climes. He spends his days at a Oakland workers’ rights nonprofit and his evenings probably playing moderately accurate renditions of Propagandhi songs with his awesome partner and their rescued pup, Bandit. He’s also currently active in organizing against Oakland’s “Let’s All Kill Some Chickens in Our Yards For Fun” proposal. He used to blog, and might do so again someday.
Every day is Earth Day when you’re vegan »
For Earth Day this year I celebrated by attending Berkeley Vegan Earth Day, hosted by eco-friendly event planner Karine Brighten. Though you may be thinking, “Earth Day was soooo last week, why are you getting around to this now?” I have two reasons: One is that I am a slacker. Two is that it doesn’t matter because EVERY DAY SHOULD BE EARTH DAY! And the information is still relevant!
What was special about this particular Earth Day event was the link Brighten emphasized between veganism and its positive impact on both animals and the environment, as well as exploring “reasons and ways to take that commitment even further.” Mission accomplished, girlfriend!
Berkeley Vegan Earth Day included a screening of the documentary Call of Life: Facing the Mass Extinction, followed by a panelist discussion and catered reception.
To put it mildly, Call of Life was intense. Really, read its tag line: “If current trends continue, scientists warn that within a few decades at least HALF of all plant and animal species on Earth will disappear forever.” We live on a planet full of ecosystems that depend on each other for survival. When one species, whether plants or animals, begins to dwindle or become extinct, it causes a ripple effect to which human animals are not immune. The scientists, anthropologists, philosophers and psychologists featured in this documentary are hypothesizing that if we don’t fundamentally change our behavioral and societal patterns (RIGHT NOW) we are going to contribute to both the extinction of the plants and animals on our planet as well as ourselves.
Another point this movie touched upon was that as humans, we are not oblivious to this going on around us and may suffer from feelings of terror, anger, and despair. Yet our society is adept at pushing consumerism as a way to suppress those feelings, or block them out entirely. We buy the things we “deserve” to feel better, and indulge in meat though we know factory farming is vicious and inhumane, as well as a direct reason for clear-cutting rain forests. The longer this movie sat with me, the more powerfully my thoughts centered around throwing myself off my second-story balcony, but then I remembered I was hosting Easter this year, which would hopefully save at least one pig sent for slaughter this spring (nothing like an agave-brown sugar seitan roast). Activism, people! It saves lives!
Next up were the vegan panelists: David Vlansey, the executive producer of Call of Life, Lauren Ornelas of the Food Empowerment Project, Hope Bohanec of In Defense of Animals, and Alex Eaves of Stay Vocal.
My favorite points from the discussion include:
- In the US farm workers are not paid overtime, though in pretty much every other professional it is mandatory. There are laws against compensating them for overtime.
- Environmental racism—it’s no coincidence that oil refineries, land fills, truck depots,etc happen to be located around low income neighborhoods and communities of color. These areas have higher rates of cancer and pollutants along with less access to health care or healthy foods. Examples of these regions in the SF Bay Area include Richmond and Martinez.
- The only difference between organic beef and conventional beef is what they are fed. Eating organic beef doesn’t effect green house or fossil fuel admissions.
- It’s not feasible to have enough grass-fed, free-range meat to feed 6 billion people (the Earth’s population). There simply isn’t enough room.
- Eating vegan is eating green. Two vegan meals a week is better than eating an organic, locally sourced lifestyle.
- Recycling is failure to reuse.
- It takes 400 gallons of water for all the cotton that goes into one new t-shirt.
- If his friends that own coffeeshops were to charge everyone that brought in their own travel mug $1 and $5 for every paper cup, people could then pay for their ignorance and denial.
The reception was catered by Millennium, which was great for me, as I’ve never eaten there.
Brighten said she is “extremely happy to have had such an amazing turnout, and so much support from the community.” Sign up for her newsletter to receive updates on upcoming events here! I may have heard a rumor about vegan speed dating in Berkeley in the near future.