Supporting Portland's Vegan, Vegetarian, and Veg-curious Community

Northwest VEG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Portland, OR that works to educate and encourage people to make vegan choices for a healthy, sustainable, and compassionate world.
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Volunteer Spotlight: Debbie Kay

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January 1, 2013

Q. How long have you been veg and why?
A. My husband and I decided to go completely Veg in 2005 after learning of the increasing health risks involved in eating meat. I also had a goal to avoid diabetes since every member of my maternal family has the disease. I knew I was a candidate. To my surprise, my cholesterol and other factors werenít reducing even while avoiding meat. My doctor suggested I avoid cheese. I love to cook and bake. How was I going to enjoy cooking without dairy products? I took a five day immersion class with Chef Al Chase in 2006 and was introduced to vegan cooking. Shortly before that I had wandered into the VegFest. I bought my first vegan cookbook, The World Vegan Fusion Cuisine, listened to Bo Rinaldi speak, and watched a cooking demo for a vegan sausage, which I promptly went home and recreated. I embraced this new way of cooking immediately and began making all our meals vegan. I took the Master VEG course which opened my eyes to a whole world I hadnít seen before. I became more aware of the plight of the animals and the effects of the meat and dairy industry on the environment. I have since taken a number of immersion classes, including the Vegan Fusion teacher training with Mark Reinfeld.

Q. How has being veg impacted your life?
A. Exploring wonderful new ways to make beautiful food with no animal products just excites me. I have always loved cooking for others, but now I can share something wonderful which adds to our health instead of threatening it. I am happy to say I havenít been sick in almost four years. I am pretty sure itís because of the way I eat. Iíve started teaching others to cook plant-based meals and itís been a joy.

Q. How did you get involved with volunteering for NW VEG?
A. While participating in the Master VEG Program, volunteering was just part of the program. It definitely adds to the learning experience. I enjoy the accessibility to the information, speakers, conferences, the events, and meeting the great people Iíve met in NW VEG.

Q. What has been your favorite or most memorable NW VEG volunteer experience?
A. The VegFest 2012 has to be my favorite. I had the privilege of being the lead coordinator of the chefsí prep kitchen. The VegFest has grown tremendously in the last six years. Itís a lot busier than the first time I volunteered. I had the opportunity to work with some wonderful volunteers and vegan chefs from all over the country. I wasnít bored for a second. We put out 200+ samples for each of nine cooking demos. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too. My feet hurt, but I had a huge smile on, inside and out. I enjoyed all the people I worked with, and made some great new friendships.

Q. What advice would you give to individuals considering volunteering for NW VEG?
A. Just jump in. Let the volunteer coordinator know your strengths and interests. Once you volunteer, Iím pretty sure youíll do it again. By volunteering and attending NW VEG events, Iíve learned much more about the benefits of veganism and met some great people. Everyone has their own reasons for attending the events, learning about the nutritional benefits, the environmental benefits, and the humane treatment of animals, and we all learn from each other.

Q. What is your favorite veg meal, either homemade or from a restaurant?
A. It is winter and ďchicken pot pieĒ made with extra firm tofu and homemade vegan pastry comes to mind right now. Hereís a link to my recipe.

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