05 April 2013

Reflections of a new vegan

I'm a vegan stay at home mom of 2 kids. My son is nine and my daughter is two. Our family which also includes my fiance, has only been vegan for three months, but so many great things have happened in that short time that it feels like this is the way it’s always been for us.

For ages, I have been interested in food and would call myself an on again/off again vegetarian. I was very well aware of where meat came from but chose blind myself to how meat was produced and the actual effect that the whole process has on us, animals, the environment and our economy.

After reading countless Facebook posts from my many vegan friends about various topics, I decided that it was time. I went to my local library and checked out Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. I came home and talked to my fiance about it and he was totally on board. That night we watched Vegucated and I guess you can say the rest is history.

We were both hooked on learning everything vegan, I couldn't get enough information. I was reading everything I could find on the internet, asking my vegan friends a ton of questions and watching every movie I could to learn the truth about our food.

Then I got overwhelmed. There was so much information out there, and when you start to not only see with your own eyes what is happening to all those innocent animals -- but start really reading the labels of the food in your cupboard -- it starts to get disheartening. Plus it was not just me that I needed to change but also my fiance and two kids. I was so worried that everyone was not going to like changing how they ate and that my kids would not be getting the proper nutrients.

However, in this whole process, each day gets so much easier. I am now eating fruits and vegetables that I had only previously eaten very occasionally. I enjoy cooking and trying new recipes more than I ever did before because with vegan cooking even the simplest dish has many different ways it can be prepared. My kitchen gadgets have multiplied and just this past week I made my first loaf of whole wheat bread in a bread machine. I am also very fortunate in the fact that my fiance loves to cook and we have spent many hours in the kitchen together, cooking, laughing, talking and learning.

He’s so great about trying new things; he was even a good sport when he had to try my first failed attempt at making seitan wings. The only thing since we've gone vegan that he couldn't stand to eat. I don't blame him; it was very rubbery and gross. I did not get discouraged, instead tried again and have since figured out a better way to make it.

My son is doing well with the transition and even talks about opening a 100 percent vegan restaurant, and always asks if the food we used to eat can be made vegan. I’m really proud of the progress that he has made in such a short amount of time. My daughter loves pretty much everything that we've given her to try. The advantage is that she's so young, being vegan will just be natural for her as she gets older.

Something I have noticed since going vegan (besides feeling better and having more energy) is that I cannot see a billboard, watch a commercial or walk by the meat section of the supermarket without thinking about the truth behind how it got there. Sometimes I feel like just shaking people and asking them what is wrong with them.

I try to remember that we cannot be angry vegans, rather vegans who like to talk openly and compassionately without making others feel bad. I have learned in the past few months that when people ask you questions about being a vegan, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say when you talk to them in a positive way.

Is being vegan hard? Absolutely not! The only people that say that it is are not vegans. The produce section is full of things we can eat, with endless possibilities of how to cook them. And being vegan now is not at all like it was 20 years ago; there are so many vegan products online, in stores, restaurants and bakeries. It's amazing the things that are out there now if you just do a little research.

Social media has been a huge help to me as well, I am a member of a local vegan families group on Facebook and it's great. Any type of question I have, I can ask it there and get a straight forward non-judgmental answer from veteran vegans or noobies like myself. It’s great support and that is exactly what you need when diving head first into veganism. It’s nice to not feel alone in a mostly non-vegan world.

Since becoming a vegan it didn't take long for me to want to start making some changes in the world. I didn't think that I would find something so quickly but I did by way of the NY State WIC program. My daughter is currently enrolled and I went to my local WIC office to get her new checks, armed with a note from her pediatrician stating that my daughter was now on a vegan diet and that we would like dairy alternatives in her WIC package instead of the usual milk, eggs and cheese. Little did I know that NY State does not allow vegan children this option, the only way is if the child has a milk protein allergy.

My daughter's case worker was very helpful and advised me to make a formal complaint. When I returned home that afternoon, that is exactly what I did and the ball started rolling. In this whole process I have met, talked to and have established a relationship with many wonderful vegans in different fields that have been helpful in pointing me in the right direction to the next step in getting this policy changed. I have sent several letters to elected officials and have started to hear back from their offices with most of them agreeing with me. The most common complaint during this whole thing (besides the price) is that there is not enough demand for dairy alternatives to vegan children so I have constructed an online petition for people to sign so that I can show that there in fact is. As a result of me rallying to see some change in the NY State WIC program I have been fortunate enough to become the volunteer events coordinator for ASHA, a local farm sanctuary that is opening this summer in Newfane, NY.

Becoming a vegan has been the best choice for me and the people in my family. My mom has even gone veg since finding out about our change. Every day is an adventure in making new foods, trying new things and reading new material.

Our family just celebrated our first vegan Easter, complete with paper mache eggs for the kids to decorate, baskets with toys and vegan goodies and a full vegan brunch. It was a really awesome day and I am so happy that my family was able to celebrate it in a completely cruelty-free fashion.

Sara Till | Petition | Facebook| Twitter | Blog
Lancaster, New York I am a stay at home mom with two kids. My son Evan is 9 and my daughter Marley is 2. When I am not busy making my families vegan meals from scratch or spending time with my kids and fiance Robert, I am the volunteer events coordinator for ASHA, a farm sanctuary working to make a great home for rescued animals. I'm also fighting to get NY State to change its WIC policy for vegan babies and children who can not receive a soy package without a milk protein allergy.

Photo credit: TDIV