As we are all, finding suitable food when you are vegan can be hard, and it is sometimes necessary to go without if you can’t get a vegan meal in a restaurant, or from a shop when you are out and about. However, most of us are lucky enough that we can usually eat well, despite the occasional inconvenience and missed meal. What happens, however, when you are vegan and homeless? Is it possible to stick to a strictly plant-based diet under those unfortunate circumstances?
You may think that if you are unlucky enough to be destitute and living on the streets, being choosy about whatever food you can get would be the least of your problems, and that you have to eat whatever you can get. However, some of the charitable organisations which provide food to the homeless also now cater for vegan diets.
For example, a collective called the Burrito Project LA provides vegan - take a wild guess! - burritos to the local homeless community. Every night on Thursdays, these volunteers serve donated food from an assembly line to the hungry and needy, along with bottled water and other supplies such as clothes and toiletries. The group also drops off these burritos to certain areas with a high homelessness rate in Los Angeles. The venture started around 10 years ago by a group of friends from a local vegan bar, which was serving carnitas made of jackfruit.
Another food-sharing charity, Food Not Bombs, has been helping communities share the vegetarian message for around 35 years. They were originally formed in 1980 as a protest against the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station north of Boston, New Hampshire. They have organisations all over the world and their mission is to feed the hungry as well as protest about poverty and war.
By providing plant-based meals, these programs can help the homeless to eat more healthily and also stick to their lifestyle choices and principles. There are food banks of course, but these are not necessarily the best option for homeless people. Currently around 14 million Americans are reliant on food banks. Unfortunately, there is quite a big downside to the non-perishable foods donated to these places. They focus on restocking pantries (which of course the homeless don’t have) and also only provide the food which privileged people don’t want. Additionally, because these charitable ventures are supplied by donations, they are most likely not being given many vegetarian or vegan supplies.
Organizations such as Food Not Bombs and Burrito Project LA not only feed the homeless but they also provide a healthier alternative to processed foods. This is one of the other disadvantages of food banks: they are often stocked with canned meals and other packaged, processed foodstuffs. Whereas the vegetarian/vegan food-share initiatives offer healthy comestibles which homeless people may not otherwise receive, which is why more of them are needed. It also gives the homeless the ideal opportunity to follow an animal-free diet.
Picture courtesy of www.thinkprogress.org