Testimonial from Vegetarian Resource Group Intern, Emily Carter, on the joy of cooking with the participants of Catholic Charities’ Christopher Place Employment Academy. “My experience made me realize that the smallest of actions can bring about some of the greatest change,” said Emily Carter.

Christopher Place Employment Academy of Baltimore is a program of Catholic Charities which educates and trains men who’ve experienced homelessness, incarceration or addiction and lays the foundation to build skills and savings to succeed moving forward.

I had the pleasure of meeting a fine group of these men when I went with Vegetarian Resource Group volunteer Marcy Schveibinz to help her teach a weekly vegan cooking class. When Marcy and I arrived, we were greeted with smiles and curiosity; the attitude in the building was so positive and homey.

Everyone knows and loves Marcy and they were so excited to hear what she was going to be cooking up next. On that day, vegan
mac and cheese were on the menu! The class included meal prep, cooking, and nutrition advice, like where to get certain vitamins and how to read labels. As we were cooking, we all talked about various aspects of veganism including the differences in the nutrition of plant-based and animal-based products. Their homework assignment – to look over a climate-related pamphlet – sparked conversations about environmental impacts and speciesism as well. Though there were serious topics, humor and understanding cleared away inhibitions.

Preparing meals together has always been a way for people to unite and nourish each other’s stomachs and souls. This was no
different, and although many of the men concluded that they would rather make ‘normal’ mac and cheese instead of the vegan version, we left happy knowing that they could revisit veganism at any time and not be completely clueless. This environment seemed the most productive for bringing in an idea such as veganism because there was no risk and the reward was yummy free food! Though the group
was not willing to drop the hat and declare veganism right away, they made an open and honest effort to understand why and how to be vegan. For me, all it took was the tiniest bit of information for me to eventually reach my own vegan
conclusion. My experience at Christopher Place made me realize that the smallest of actions can bring about some of the greatest change.

For information on the Vegetarian Resource Group internships, see https://www.vrg.org/student/index.php