It would be naïve of me to talk about veganism without mentioning privilege.
I am a white college educated female who is in her mid-twenties and living in Washington State in the United States. I am privileged and therefore able to get to choose what foods I eat.
Like many fellow vegans, when I first made the switch, I was appalled that everyone else in my life wasn’t doing the same! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; being pushy, judgmental, and mean is NO WAY to convince anyone to go vegan (or do anything for that matter).
And while I have been happily vegan for over three years, it is important to note the amount of privilege I have that has enabled me to do so. Being able to choose what I eat, based on moral grounds, is an option that low-income people don’t necessarily have. When people think about places where it would be nearly impossible to go vegan, their mind usually goes to third world countries. However, what people fail to realize is that there are plenty of people in the US that do not have the privilege to choose what they eat.
In the US alone, 2.3 million people live in food deserts; urban areas, usually low-income, that have no full grocery store less than one mile away. A majority of these household also do not own a car, making it even more difficult to gain access to food. Rather than driving over to their local Whole Foods, these Americans are often relying of gas stations and convenience stores to get their food.
As someone who has been vegan for years, I know how difficult it is to find vegan food (let alone vegetarian food) at a gas station. What I do find is usually a pack of Oreos, a Clif bar, and a sad looking banana. Not really foods that should be making up someone’s entire diet.
A low-income household is also going to turn towards food that can sustain them. If you have 4 children to feed, you’re much more likely to turn to fast food, chicken nuggets, and rice than whipping up a kale salad and tofu scramble.
Having the choice to choose what you eat is a privilege in itself. There are many groups of individuals on this planet, in this country, even in my own state, that do not have this choice. There are groups dealing with intense oppression which requires them to prioritize themselves and their communities.
I am beyond grateful to be born into the life that I was and to be given the choice to choose what goes on my plate. Not everyone can go vegan, at least not anytime soon, and it would be naïve to think that.
It’s not just about making veganism more accessible. It’s about making real plant foods more accessible to millions of Americans who are currently living in food deserts. It’s about creating change to subsidize healthy foods rather than beef patties and French fries.
This holiday season, rather than becoming angsty about the fact that you’re the only one not eating turkey, remember all that you do have to be thankful for; a roof over your head, food on your plate, and the choice to choose what you eat.
STOP ridiculing other people’s food choices and start helping others. Donate to your local food bank, show others cheap/easy vegan meals, and simply show others how they can incorporate more healthy plant foods into their diets.