With Covid continuing to disrupt people’s lives, leaving many in very difficult circumstances, we have been supporting communities around the world, showcasing vegan food and sharing information about the many benefits of plant-based eating. And while our Kenya manager Jack Lekishon coordinates our ongoing support with the Maasai community, by providing 15,000 meals to schoolchildren, we have been active in Latin America, India and Europe, too.
Helping Those Impacted by Covid in Argentina
Since the pandemic began, we have been working to support the most marginalized communities in Buenos Aires where many people have been unable to get even the most basic resources such as water and electricity. This has not only affected homes, it has affected the city’s soup kitchens who were forced to stop their activities, leaving thousands of families without help. And so it was not enough to donate food to them, we needed to help them restructure their kitchens so that they could get cooking again.
As we have an ongoing relationship with the soup kitchens and their communities, we make it a priority to listen to their needs and take on board their feedback about the kinds of food we bring. And so we always make typical Argentinian dishes that can easily be veganized. This means the food is very similar in flavor to what people are used to, and it is also affordable and accessible. Often, people say they can’t believe the food is vegan!
And as we work with lots of children, we also try to ensure the food is delicious and fun. In the last week of August, we had a campaign for Children’s Day. We gave away plant-based hot dogs to 900 children and held activities celebrating animals and our relationship with them, including singing songs, creating animal shapes from playdough, reading animal stories and drawing animals with chalk. It was a great day!
As our work in this community continues, we are noticing how happy people are with the food which then opens up room for conversations about the ingredients, how to cook it, and the reasons why people come to veganism. As a result, some children and their parents are already changing the way they eat.
A Month of Meals in Milan
We partnered with La Compagnia della Polenta, a non-profit serving 200 warm and healthy plant-based meals a month to underserved communities in Milan. Following the economic downturn as a result of the pandemic, many more people are struggling. According to data released earlier this year, people seeking help from charities due to economic difficulties have dramatically increased due to Covid-19, with one out of four having never had to seek such help before. These included elderly people with minimum pension, migrants, and low income families.
La Compagnia della Polenta is a fantastic charity that promotes plant-based meals as a way to make healthy food available to a broader number of people. They also seek to raise awareness amongst their own volunteers, some of whom are not vegan, of the many benefits of a plant-based diet. We were delighted to support their work, and to provide one thousand meals over five weeks.
On Tour in Mexico
Our partnership with the amazing Miguel Soria and his travelling Holy Van continued this month, as we were joined by Animal Save Puebla to share some super-tasty tacos árabe, a well-loved local dish that is specific to this city. Of course, our tacos were fully vegan, and were so good that they convinced many people that even traditional meat-heavy meals can be veganized and taste every bit as good as the original.
Miguel described the reaction to his tacos: “People were surprised to know that you can have a version free of animal products. People were also surprised that the food delivery was free, they imagined that we were looking for something in return, to which we responded that we just wanted to give them a chance to try animal-free food and to be a little more informed about the consequences of consumption habits and customs.”
Thank you Miguel and the Animal Save volunteers.
Teaching Chefs in Bangalore
This month, we partnered with Hatti Kaapi, a popular chain of coffee shops that has been moving towards a vegan menu, and has also been supporting people most affected by the Covid crisis. With them, we delivered 4,700 vegan meal snacks to those for whom the lockdown has meant a loss of income, including taxi and rickshaw drivers, migrant workers and labourers.
With the expertise of Dr Vidya Chakravarty, a plant-based Ayurveda doctor, the staff at Hatti Kaapi were trained to make dairy-free yogurt, and use soya chunks and tofu as meat and paneer replacements. The staff were amazed at how easy it was to make delicious traditional dishes fully vegan, and as a result two of the chefs have decided they will remain vegan.
We are grateful to the students from St. Joseph’s College of Commerce who helped us disseminate information about veganism in the local languages, including how animal agriculture affects the climate, and how we can help to prevent future pandemics.
Says chef Dayanand Pai: “Thanks for this wonderful opportunity to cook oil-free and dairy-free meals, I am happy to have got the opportunity to learn from Dr Vidya ways to cook vegan foods that would save our health, animals and the planet too! My two children are very inspired by this noble initiative of MDV.”
Dr Vidya was delighted with Million Dollar Vegan’s work in the city. She said: “The food giveaway by MDV has inspired thousands of people in Bangalore. Thanks to this initiative, the volunteers and cooks have started to give up or have already given up animal foods from their diet.”
Burritos For All in Valencia
Our Spanish team visited the vibrant city of Valencia this month to advocate for veganism by giving away 500 very tasty plant-based burritos. Khambú restaurant made the traditional burritos using plant-based meat by Catalan start-up Heura Foods. Recognising the impact our food choices have on environmental, personal and public health, Barnet Añaños, co-founder of Heura stated: “More than ever we need action that puts pressure on institutions and involves citizens. The solutions to the climate and social crises that we’re living through can be reached through a sustainable, democratic, and animal-free food system. We’ll continue to collaborate with Million Dollar Vegan and their essential actions.”
With so many more people reconsidering their food choices in light of the pandemic, our team wanted to reassure people that the choice was not between what is good for public health and what tastes great. We wanted to show people that they can have both! And, as personal health is just as important as preventing public health disasters, we work with chefs who can provide a delicious healthy meal that has plants at its centre, while often also offering something a little decadent. Our aim is to get people to say: ‘I can’t believe this is vegan!’ And yes, they often do!
To date, we have donated more than 520,000 meals in 81 cities all over the world. Thank you to all the volunteers, chefs, nutritionists, doctors and coordinators who have made this possible.