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Volunteer Spotlight: Lauren Thommason
October 2, 2012
How long have you been veg and why?
I have been a very committed and compassionate vegetarian for almost three years, though I wish I had been for longer, knowing all that I know now. I tried being vegan for a while last year, and for some reason it faded as I was traveling. I am trying to get back in touch with it, and VegFest has helped move that process along faster! I choose vegan most of the time, though. What changed everything for me was when I picked up a Mercy for Animals pamphlet from The Chicago Diner, where I had eaten for the first time with a vegetarian friend of mine who was visiting me in Chicago. I read it that following week on a road trip along Highway 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco. As I was reading the terrifying truths and viewing the horrible images of factory farming, I was passing farm after farm of what seemed to be happy cows grazing the most amazing landscapes of our country. I knew then that if I were to continue eating meat, I wanted it to come from a place where animals were treated how those cows seemed to be treated. I then went “organic” and would only buy or eat organic meat. Only weeks later that wasn’t enough for me, especially after watching Food Inc, which led me to more films and a plethora of literature and research on the subject. I immediately lost the taste and felt disgusted by the thought of eating flesh. I couldn’t believe how misled I was by the food industry itself. I cut meat entirely out of my diet and never looked back. I am vegetarian first and foremost for animal rights reasons, but also for health and the environment.

How has being veg impacted your life?
My vegetarian diet and lifestyle has changed the way I see the world; most importantly, how I view animals. Being a vegetarian has also opened up my eyes to an overwhelming array of environmental and health problems our society is facing, but leaves me inspired to want to resolve them. I am more aware of what I am putting into my body. I read ingredients. I research. I have a much more open mind in trying new foods, foods are more flavorful than ever before, and most importantly, I feel good emotionally and physically. Being veg has also helped to shape my career goals. I am currently trying to determine a career where I can combine my educational background in nonprofit arts management, my childcare experience, and my passion for education and advocacy to a career in the environmental field, or more specifically, to a career in the veg food movement. I want to work with nonprofits like NW VEG to create educational programming for children that pertains to nutritional and compassionate eating, and that makes healthy eating interesting and exciting.

How did you get involved with volunteering for NW VEG?
My boyfriend, Woody, and I knew we were coming out to Portland for a month to stay with friends to see if Portland is the city for us. I searched online to find any veg events happening in September and for any veg non profits out here. Sure enough NW VEG and Portland VegFest popped up! I knew I wanted to make use of my time out here, so when I stumbled upon the event, I followed the links to volunteer, which led me to Chelsea Davis, Northwest VEG’s Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator. She offered me a large volunteer role helping her coordinate the children’s activities for VegFest, which led to me became the supervisor of Portland VegFest’s children’s area. I managed to get Woody involved as well in assisting with design elements for the children’s activities, as well as creating props for the teen area’s Flesh is for Zombies photo booth. It was an incredible experience for me, and I hope to do it all over again next year, whether I am living in Portland or not!

What advice would you give to individuals considering volunteering for NW VEG?
Do it! NW VEG events like VegFest would not be possible without volunteers like you!

What is your favorite veg meal, either homemade or from a restaurant?
I crave black beans! I pretty much love any dish with black beans. My favorite meal for a while now has been the black bean burger from The Chicago Diner, with a side of their house made vegan ranch!

Contact:lauren.e.thomasson@gmail.com.

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