In my last blog post “A Vegan in the Middle of a Natural Disaster”, I shared everything I did to survive the days after Hurricane Maria hit my island, Puerto Rico. I wrote that veganism was the way to go in terms of how we can help the planet heal.
This follow-up is about veganism in local areas, and helping communities. One of the great things I got to do after the hurricane was go to the streets and feed others. A year before the hurricane, I had the chance to meet the founder of Chilis on Wheels, a non-profit organization that feeds vegan food to people in need of a warm meal. Michelle, the founder, is a fellow Puerto Rican who was living in NYC when she started this project. After Maria, her organization was focused on sending relief and food to our island. She came, and that is when we got some cooking going on. We literally spent the first day cooking under the sun with a campfire at a local place that was providing an area as a community kitchen.
We got to feed hundreds of meals for two weeks. We met elders who were very grateful for the little things we were able to do. We also went to an all-girls’ orphanage and gave them some care packages as well as food – vegan food. I did nothing compared to what this organization has done but I was proud of being able to feed people vegan food.
While some people were getting food poisoning from eating old meat, others ended up with high blood pressure, like a friend’s mom. When my friend was telling me about it, and how she would like her mom to go plant-based, I asked what changed in her diet. It clicked for both of us: while her mom had never been vegan, she was now eating canned meat. This type of food has crazy measures of sodium. That was the only new item in her diet. Now she’s doing better in terms of her pressure and also she’s been eating more plant based as the days go by.
Another chance that I had to impact the community was with a friend who flew in from Milwaukee. He’s a fellow islander and had a great art project that was funded to do some emergency relief on the island. He asked me to collaborate and do a vegan version of his pop-ups around the island. We decided to impact the students from our public university on both opportunities. It was amazing how everyone would react to a free breakfast; coffee with almond milk, homemade granola and homemade coconut yogurt. Students were happy and grateful as well and they all came in for a chat and were curious on why we were giving out food.
It is good to build a community around your fellow vegans, and also teach other communities that we can feed tons of people on vegan food. This helps not only to promote our whys, but also to show that vegan food can be affordable, that vegan food is delicious and that vegan food can change the world.
Cindy Lou Negrón, VLCE, is the owner of Veganizalo a small local business that sells vegan comfort food. As a vegan educator, she gives workshops, demos, and attend fairs, veganizes Puerto Rico’s local recipes on her YouTube channel. You can find Cindy as Veganizalo on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.