My Experience as an Eleanor Miltimore Wolff Virtual Intern with The Vegetarian Resource Group

By Julia Comino, VRG Intern

Having grown up in a small, southern town in Mississippi, I had never
experienced being a part of a community of individuals who were as passionate
about plant-based living and environmental justice as I was until I began my
internship with The Vegetarian Resource Group. Within my first week of
virtually interning with The VRG, my relationship with advocacy and how I view
my choice to be a vegetarian evolved immensely. After just a few email
exchanges with Charles Stahler, the co-founder and co-director of The VRG who I
worked with closely throughout my internship, I found myself re-evaluating how
I viewed veganism and vegetarianism. When I made the decision to switch to a
vegetarian diet four years ago, I did so rather nonchalantly. I saw this
decision as a simple switch toward a more sustainable lifestyle. I stand by my
reasoning for my initial choice, but now, after learning about the history of
the veganism movement, discussing the positive effects of vegan and vegetarian
diets on one’s health and the environment, and becoming a part of a community
of plant-based individuals during this internship, I value my vegetarian
lifestyle so much more.

     I can say in all honesty that I have enjoyed every assignment I have worked on throughout my internship. The first project that I worked on was writing a review of a restaurant in my town that served vegan options. I chose Petra Café  a small Mediterranean and Greek restaurant in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Not only was the food I ordered delicious, but my first experience of writing for The VRG Blog was invigorating. As someone who hopes to pursue a career in journalism, I appreciated this chance to not only view but experience the editing process and gain a better understanding of what it takes to compose a well-written and well-researched published piece.

     In my second week of
interning I had the opportunity to participate in The VRG’s Zoom seminar with
Professor Phyllis McShane’s class of University of Maryland dietetic students. I
able to listen in on Dr. Reed Mangels’ (The VRG nutrition advisor and
registered dietitian), Charles Stahler’s, and others’ riveting presentations on
veganism and nutrition, and I also had the chance to speak about my experience
as a plant-based teenager. After joining in for the day of presentations,
conversation, and sharing information on veganism, I wrote about this
experience in The VRG Blog.

     However, my writing skills
are not the only ones this internship has improved. Over the course of my
internship, I’ve improved my baking skills and spoiled my friends and family
with sweet treats while testing out vegan recipes for the Vegetarian Journal like the Cold Brew Coffee Cake, my high school
mock trial team’s favorite that became highly requested, and Hot Cocoa Brownies.
Whether it be creating info-graphics to reviewing vegan products for Veggie
Bits, working with Rissa Miller, the senior editor of Vegetarian Journal magazine, was always a joy because of her
cheerful personality that showed even over email.

     One of the characteristics
of this internship that I appreciated the most was the freedom and creativity
that I was allowed to have with the projects I worked on. While working with
Dr. Reed Mangels for the TEEN FAQ blog, I was able to not only write an article
sharing my experience of eating vegan as a low-income teenager but also was
encouraged to create other forms of media. I designed a graphic for The VRG’s
social media as well as created a video that would share this information. I
worked with The VRG staff to write an outline, choose recipes, and research
low-cost foods for this visual presentation before setting up my phone camera
and going to film. I was able to share tips on how to make eating plant-based
diets affordable while showcasing some of my favorite cheap recipes like peanut
butter banana oatmeal and my fruit cobbler in a mug.

     Writing for the VRG Online Restaurant
Guide has been one of my favorite responsibilities of this internship. I
learned how to effectively and quickly gather information through skimming
websites, reviews, and Facebook pages or when this online snooping was not
enough I turned to contacting restaurants myself. Writing short, catchy
snippets on vegan restaurants, from taco dive bars to youth-owned vegan
bakeries, was not only very fun, but surprisingly productive as my researching
skills have definitely improved. I loved the feeling of accomplishment I had
every time I would send Debra Wasserman, the Co-Coordinator of The Vegetarian
Resource Group, a finished snippet on a restaurant. I also had the chance to
work with Debra when writing a review on The
Student Vegan Cookbook
. I, again, was able to improve both my writing and
my skills in the kitchen with this project as I tried out the recipes for Carrot Cake Oatmeal and Cilantro Kale Salad.

     I also had the chance to
collaborate with another intern, Shantika Bhat, during my internship. Shantika,
a senior in high school from Baltimore, Maryland, and I worked together on
interviewing past VRG interns for next year’s 40th-anniversary edition of the Vegetarian Journal. Not only did this
experience teach me how to work with others in a virtual setting, but I also
gained a new friend in Shantika. Through two of my projects for The VRG Blog, The Favorite Inexpensive Vegan Foods of 2021
Summer Interns,
and The VRG 2021
Interns Favorite Vegan Foods,
I was able to connect with the other summer
interns. Although our conversations were conducted over email, I was able to
learn about and befriend several of the interns I interviewed for this project.
Although my internship was conducted remotely, without ever having met any of
The VRG staff or the other interns in person, I have still been able to have
productive and interesting conversations ranging from veganism to dialects as well
as form long lasting relationships.

     I am truly sad that my
internship with The VRG is coming to an end, but I can’t help but be
overwhelmed with gratitude for all that I have learned while interning. My time
interning with The VRG has not only improved my skills as a writer but also as
an advocate. As I pursue an education in Journalism and Political Science at
American University this fall, I know I will take all I learned from this
experience with me!

For information about The
Vegetarian Resource Group internships, see

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See some of Julia Comino’s projects at: