The Flaming Vegan

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Work Pressure as a Vegan
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Work Pressure as a Vegan

I am writing today to share some thoughts on how it is for people who are vegans working in a company that just doesn't fit their values.  For the longest time, I've had to endure being in a company that not only had meat as their main and most popular item, the rest of the food was the processed and chemically-laden sort we have to stay away from if we want to be healthy.

I accepted this job only because I was in a pinch.  I badly needed an income and even though it paid fairly well, I was in a hurry to get out of there.  It took forever, and what made it happen was that they moved from Vancouver, BC, to Toronto, ON, thus allowing me to receive social benefits while I looked for a new job in Vancouver.  LIving in Toronto is not for me - sorry lapiz lazu, it's just not my piece of cake!  So, my story does have a happy ending for me.

But the time I was there, I naively beleived I could try to make some positive changes in the company.  I didn't want to entirely makeover the entire list of products, but since I was a vegetarian who ate mostly organic, and knowing that this is where there is a large increase in sales every year, I gave it a try.  And failed miserably.  It seriously felt like discrimination.  The company's motto, when I arrived, was to 'sell an expensive meal in an affordable fashion', which to me could very well include organics and vegetarian food.  Just because I tried to add some items, they changed it to 'make our clients' home bountifull with food'.  So no more expensive food offered: they literally changed some of their products to ensure customers just received lots and lots of food for a reasonable price.

And I wasn't the only one who was asking for healthier options.  The customers themselves wanted to receive food delivery that was better for you.  First, let me tell you a bit about this company:  it is a company that offers customers the chance to pay for a large amount of food for Christmas and New Year's over twelve months, making it easier on them when the holidays come around.  Their target population is low-income earners who live paycheck per paycheck.  This way, they don't have to worry about having a turkey with all the trimmings because they've paid for it in several small payments over a long period of time, making it almost unnoticeable.  The only catch is that the clients must chose among a set of predetermined hampers - or boxes, if you will - of food entirely decided by the company.  No swaps allowed at all.  So if you are allergic to peanuts and the hamper that you want the most out of their list has them, you have no choice but to receive your hamper with the peanuts.  The company will tell you to give them away as a present - in the spirit of the holiday season - as the solution to your dilemma.  The main and most popular hampers include a turkey with its stuffing and other trimmings, a box of instant mashed potatoes, frozen veggies, cans of soup, a few easy-to-make meals such as spaghetti and pancakes, and tons of bags of chips and boxes of chocolates.

This system does, however, sound like a great idea, and it definitely has tons of potential.  However, what disappointed me is the owner's and the management's bitter obsession with sticking to the crappiest food possible.  After being turned down for the creation of a vegetarian hamper, I chose to listen more closely to the customers and see if they had any ideas for hampers.  What came up most often was to have a hamper with turkey and the trimmings, but without all the bags of chips and chocolates.  They essentially wanted to have a somewhat healthy Christmas dinner.  And even though there was a very high demand for it, once again, it was turned down.  Why?  It may have been because the idea came from the company's vegetarian, the thorn in the side of the president who clearly did not like that I refused to buy any of their hampers.  His answer was that if the customers wanted healthy, there was one hamper composed of 15 jars of spaghetti sauce with all the necessary pasta to go along with it.  In other words, if you want a healthy Christmas dinner, your only option was to eat Italian.

I have not been working there for a long time but the memory sticks to me like a whinny street dog that refuses to leave my side just because I used to feed him, quite a long time ago.  Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think of the way I handled myself here.



*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.

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  1. Virtually Homemade
    Virtually Homemade
    Lived in Toronto too for 5 years - wasn't for me either. Voted!
  2. Veganara
    Vote no 4. I enjoyed reading this; what a shame you didn't convince them to do a vegetarian hamper! They don't sound like a very progressive sort of company at all.What is it about Toronto that neither you or Virtually Homemade like, out of curiosity?
  3. kristo
    I loved living in Toronto and not Vancouver. haha. :) This is an unfortunate story, but I'm not sure if the majority of Canadians really do eat well. Grocery stores house a HUGE section of ready made, processed foods which people buy to save time. Maybe the majority of the clients enjoyed unhealthy eating?
    1. SnakeWitch
      There is still a majority that eats processed, especially in Ontario - sorry to say that, but it's true. In Montreal and Vancouver, however, there are waves of natural, organic and vegetarian stores and restaurants showing up regularly. This service is provided across Canada, including up north in hard-to-reach areas (they use FedEx to deliver the hampers). And the vegetarian movement is not just growing in Canada. I just thought it was disappointing to see that they completely refused at all cost, even though vegetarianism is increasing constantly. Anyways, I'm just glad I'm not working there anymore. It felt like prison to me.
  4. Carolyn
    Congrats on making Top Posts! This article hit Top Posts so fast, I never got to vote for it.
  5. Justnjoyable
    Vote No. 7! I found your article interesting. I am back at the site (after first being here and then realizing I wasn't Vegan, but, rather travelling the occasional fish and dairy path...then realizing after a few great comments of support and warmth, that it is the site for me!). The important comment I want to throw out to you is that sometimes people make a difference in our lives after they have left us. What I mean is that you could in fact, have planted seeds of change onto people at work and you may never even know it....:}
  6. Justnjoyable
    I just wanted to thank you for inspiring me to write a quick article. I learn a lot from reading your blogs. Always informative!! Thank you!! I had drifted away not being fully Vegan but was drawn back by the great articles, recipes and community spirit. Take care.
  7. BedStuy Vegan
    Great article. It's unfortunate that a company that has the power to turn choices into healthy ones completey ignores the customer because of the bottom line. Shame on them, but kudos to you for doing the right thing.
  8. pftsusan
    This is a good blog. I voted and I'm wishing you blessings and respect for you on your next position. I invite you to read some of my blogs.
  9. SnakeWitch
    Thanks to everyone and sorry for not responding sooner! Well, Toronto isn't my fave place to live because it seems too much like an urban jungle for me. I'm a nature gal and Vancouver is much more suited for me. As for not working there anymore, it was a definite relief. I will check out everyone's posts soon!
  10. AnnaB
    It sounds like you handled yourself very well, making a huge effort to change things balanced with trying to keep your job. What amazed me most about your story is that company president suggested that pre-made pasta sauce and pasta was healthy! Hmmm...almost no vitamins are left after the cooking and bottling process. Pasta is highly processed, almost totally lacking in nutritional value and loaded with calories. People forget that a vegan diet MAY be healthy, but not necessarily. Just like a diet including animal products, it is often quicker and easier for a vegan to eat highly processed, pre-prepared food. It might be bad for you in different ways, but I suspect it's just as bad in the end. The frozen veggies sounded like the best offering, as research has shown that they retain many of their vitamins.


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