Vegan food comes to the rescue as Americans tighten their belts


Across the United States, consumers continue to feel the effects of inflation. Consumer prices rose 0.4% from March to April, and 0.1% from February to March. Compared to April 2022, consumer prices rose 4.9%, still well above the Federal Reserve’s 2% inflation target.

At grocery stores, shoppers are experiencing a slight decline in food spending. Food prices fell in April following a similar drop in March. However, prices are up 7.1% compared to April 2022 grocery prices, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Thankfully, many vegan organizations are helping communities in need offset the cost of groceries and plant-based products through food pantries, grocery and produce gifts, community refrigerators, and fully vegan food banks. doing.

New vegan pantry opens near Chicago

One such initiative is the Little Free Plant Powered Pantry (LFPPP). Scheduled to officially launch on May 27 in Berwyn, IL (just outside the Chicago city limits), LFPPP is by Marla Rose and John Beske, the husband-and-wife team behind vegan lifestyle brand Vegan Streets. Founded.

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“I want to get food to people who need it first, and that’s my number one goal,” Rose told Vegnews. “Access to food is a serious problem.

With inflation continuing and food costs rising nationwide, the LFPPP stands ready to help local communities. Food insecurity is on the rise, according to the Greater Chicago Depot.

In Cook County, which includes Chicago and Berwyn, food insecurity increased 19% from pre-pandemic levels. For black households, the numbers are much higher, with levels of food insecurity 37 percent higher than before the pandemic. Overall, her 1 in 5 households in Chicago are currently experiencing food insecurity.

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Rose is new to the field of vegan food relief, but hopes the LFPPP can help make a difference. Rose and Beske plan to stock a vegan food pantry with shelf-stable foods, including pasta, sauces, beans, and nut butters. They are also working on building a cold storage facility and hope to store surplus produce from local gardens in the future.

“At this time, we do not know exactly who will use the LFPPP, but it will be located within a block of a multicultural elementary school, and we suspect that at least some of the traffic will be affected. “It will come from there,” she says.

“As we move forward, we will have a better understanding of who is using it and how it can best serve the needs of the community,” Rose says. . “I will continue to study with humility.”

Located near primary schools, the LFPPP stands ready to provide food assistance to young children and their families. This is especially notable given that one of her four Cook County children is at risk of starvation, according to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

LFPPP is not the only vegan food initiative to bring hunger relief to schools.

Vegan Food Relief Comes to New York City Schools

Nearly 1,300 miles east of New York’s Lower East Side, activist and community organizer Power Mull has installed 10 plant-based community refrigerators in public schools across the neighborhood.

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After debuting New York City’s first vegan community refrigerator, the Overthrow Community Fridge, in February 2021, Maru connected with Lila Mejia, a member of the local Community Education Council. It was Mejia who suggested that she introduce community refrigerators in public schools, and for good reason.

In New York City, free school meals play a vital role in curbing hunger among children, with 70% of children coming from low-income families. But when classrooms were closed early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the city scrambled to make plans to keep students fed.

According to Feeding America, 1 in 4 children in New York City experience food insecurity. In fact, a 2022 report from City Harvest, the city’s largest food rescue organization, found that child hunger and food insecurity had increased by 55 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels.

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Maru provided critical food assistance with 10 community refrigerators installed in public schools. Thanks to May Kaidee, a local Thai restaurant, I was able to provide prepared meals to my students. Today, Maru continues to stockpile these refrigerators and makes weekly produce deliveries to homes at these schools and public housing on the Lower East Side.

He also expanded the products available in the original Overthrow Community Fridge. Once stocked with perishables and perishables, the refrigerator now features pre-cooked vegan meals in partnership with EVLoves NYC, a hunger relief nonprofit.

“EVLoves NYC is a great partner. During the pandemic, we connected with them to feed New Yorkers,” Maru says. “They have come a long way and the fact that they are serving us ready-to-eat vegan meals speaks volumes.”

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“They have vegan chefs and cooks who are so excited to contribute to the plant-based community refrigerator effort,” he says. “Communities look forward to eating cooked meals [and they are] I am very grateful to be able to offer them that option. ”

Beyond the Lower East Side, Mull has expanded the plant-based community refrigerator program to other boroughs such as Brooklyn and the Bronx.

East Coast to West Coast

Activist Gwena Hunter is making history across the country with vegans at the LA Food Bank, the city’s first plant-based food bank.

Launched in May 2022 in partnership with the Hope on Union United University Church Food Bank, the Vegan of LA Food Bank offers plant-based products every month. “[Healthy, vegan] Food is a birthright,” Hunter told Vegnews.

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On the 3rd Thursday of each month, from 8am to 11am, community members will enjoy fresh produce and a selection of vegan products donated by companies such as GTFO It’s Vegan, Omni Foods, Good Catch, Unreal Deli, All Vegetable Inc line up in search of

Located in South Central Los Angeles, LA Food Bank Vegans delivers fresh, healthy food to residents living in food deserts where grocery stores are scarce. In fact, according to Stories his map, as of November 2020, there were only seven of his grocery stores across South Central, an area where 750,000 Angelenos call home.

According to Hunter, the local community welcomes the monthly vegan food bank with open arms. Hunters also receive produce donations, but often purchase additional fruits and vegetables based on feedback from those they serve. “Bananas are always in demand,” she says. Mushrooms, coriander, mangoes, apples and cabbage are also popular requests for her.

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Beyond the LA Food Bank vegan, Hunter launched another vegan food bank at the University of Southern California (USC) just last month. She also partners with USC Clover (a student organization focused on veganism, environmentalism and reductionism) and her Jubliee Cafe to provide students with hot vegan food.

Every Tuesday, Hunter, USC Clover, and Jubilee feed over 150 students. Those programs are currently on hiatus as USC just wrapped up the 2022-2023 academic year, but Hunter confirmed they will resume in August.

Food insecurity continues even after COVID-19

Besides initiatives such as Chicago’s LFPPP, LA Food Bank’s Vegan, and Malu’s Community Refrigerator and Produce Delivery in New York City, many organizations are providing food relief on a larger scale.

One such organization is Support + Feed. Founded by actress Maggie Baird, mother of vegan music artist Billie Eilish, Support + Feed is a way to feed first responders and those in need while supporting vegan restaurants. , which came about during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Support + Feed started just a few years ago and is already in more than 10 cities, including Atlanta, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia and London,” Baird tells VegNews. “This demonstrates the desire and need of people who understand that access to nutritious, plant-based foods is not only a human right, but essential to alleviating our suffering planet.”

Support + Feed, like many other vegan food relief efforts, including the one mentioned here, was born out of a need exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, federal relief measures such as stimulus checks, child tax credits, and moratoriums on evictions, which provided temporary financial aid, have now ended, but food insecurity remains.

“People think that people aren’t hungry anymore because the pandemic is over, and that’s not far from the truth,” Mal explains. “Before the pandemic, people struggled to get fresh fruits and vegetables.”

“The pandemic has only made the problem more visible and humanized the situation,” he said, noting that his efforts are not backed by corporations and rely on grassroots efforts and individual donations. added.

“Thus, if there is no news addressing this issue, [the public] I think it’s been resolved,” Maru says. “The reality is that we are still taking to the streets and claiming access to fresh produce and plant-based options.”

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