Promoting Veggie Diets at the Library

By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD

Several months ago, The Vegetarian Resource Group got an
email that said, “I’m a programming librarian for the San Jose Public Library
located in California. I was wondering if you would be interested presenting a
few programs with us. From your website, I believe that you could inform people
how to become a vegetarian, the benefits, how to manage it, answer questions,
and other things. I’m thinking that you could provide information for teens and
adults. Let me know if you would be interested in doing 2-4 programs for our
library.” The email went on to explain that they wanted to do virtual programs.

     This sounded like
an exciting opportunity to talk about vegetarian diets. After chatting with the
librarian in charge of program development, we agreed to present a total of 8
programs – 3 for families, 2 for adults, and 3 for teens – all with a focus on
being or becoming vegetarian. Each hour-long program was sponsored by a
different branch of the library. Programs were free and open to anyone who
signed up but were especially promoted to patrons of each branch.

     We decided to
cover basic information – nutrition, reasons for becoming veg, easy ideas for
meals and snacks – and to have a relaxed, conversational format. I took the
lead in developing an outline and possible talking points and Power Point
slides. Some weeks we went through all the slides; other weeks, we let the participants’
questions guide our presentation. What did people want to know about? Food
ideas were the most commonly requested topics. Participants wanted ideas for
quick-and-easy meals and snacks. We got questions about low-cost eating, about
traveling to other countries, and about whether or not vegan meats should be a
part of veg diets. Teens wanted to talk about being the only vegetarian or
vegan in their family and about going to friends’ houses or out to eat with
friends.

     One or more
branch librarians joined us for each program. Some were vegan, some vegetarian,
some-veg-curious. They helped with the technical aspects and often added their
own questions and ideas.

     Wendy Gabbe-Day,
a vegan parent with 2 vegan children and the founder of Santa Cruz (California)
VegFest joined me for the 3 programs for families. She used her personal
experiences to address questions about kids with allergies, strategies for
getting children to eat vegetables, and feeding vegan kids. VRG interns Lucia
Rivera, Nina Lehr, Clarissa Hauber, Hannah Etman, and Rachel Eldering joined me
for adult and teen programs and talked about their experiences with vegan
cooking and eating.

     Sometimes
participants chimed in to share ideas for their favorite vegan dishes or to talk
about products that they liked. We made sure to mention the library as a great
resource for vegan cookbooks and encouraged people to visit VRG’s website for
more information.

     Thank you to the
Santa Jose Public Library for making these programs possible!