A Newbie’s Experience of Vegan Outreach

Where The Hell Have You Been?

Over the last few months I’ve been busy working on a little project, well, it started off as a little project but towards the end it evolved into something much bigger than I anticipated. It has been great fun though and something I’d like to share with you in a blog post.

Back in July I decided I wanted to get more involved in Vegan Outreach. I’ve been active in a few single issue campaigns and events over the last year that have been great experience when it comes to campaigning. I’ve become a lot more confident in approaching people, my own knowledge on certain issues and also more confident in my own vegan lifestyle. I’ve somehow managed to put myself in this fabulous vegan bubble where I’ve got some fantastic people in my life who feel the same way I do. It all feels a lot more normal now. I’m not the freak anymore..everyone else is!
However, when I’m forced out of my lovely, comfortable bubble and have to spend time with the rest of the world, I found it increasingly difficult to exist outside of it. As amazing as it is to be active, it can also be a little draining. When I spent my free time indulging in delicious food and eating amazing vegan cakes it was very easy to push aside all of the suffering and abuse of millions of animals. My food choices didn’t contribute to that anymore, so I didn’t have to think about it. And anyway suffering? What suffering? My mouth is full of delicious, sugary frosting dammit, I don’t want to think about animal abuse! But, when you’re actively campaigning you find yourself bombarded with what’s really going on. Even if it’s not something you’re focusing on, somehow the information will come around to you. Honestly, stuff you wouldn’t even imagine is going on, you wouldn’t believe all the reasons humans as a species find to exploit and abuse animals. I was getting a little depressed and I was getting angry too, really fucking angry. I just wanted everyone to be vegan, like me. What the hell was wrong with everyone? Why can’t they see it the way I do?
I wanted to get involved in something a bit more positive, something that had the possibility to really create change in the long term and something that would lift my spirits. Vegan Outreach seemed to be the solution. I figured, I can’t really complain about people not going vegan when I’m not out there showing everyone how easy it can be. There’s all these fantastic new vegan products out on the market and people don’t know how good they are. In my opinion, there is no real reason not to go vegan anymore. Everything has a substitute and vegan products are cheap and easily accessible now. 
I decided to organise something that would change peoples opinions about veganism and show them what’s available. So I’ve spent the last few months organising a Free Vegan Food Day in my area.

Free Vegan Food Day – How I Went About It


Apart from a few fluffy demos, this was the first event I had ever really organised. I didn’t really know exactly how to go about it but I was determined that I wanted to organise the whole lot by myself, I wanted the experience and I also think it makes things easier in the long run, not having to rely on people for really important things. I chatted to a few people at my local animal rights group (S.E.A.R.) and then decided to jump right in.

Location, Time and Date

Before you organise anything, make sure you sort out where you want to do your stall. I live in Croydon, so I decided to set up near the big shopping centers on the High Street. As long as you aren’t selling food, don’t have a collecting tin to take donations and aren’t cooking the food in public, you do not need to get permission to have the stall from the council. Just make sure that your stall does not cause an obstruction, otherwise you’re likely to get the police over to ask you to get lost. I tried to get permission from Lush to have my stall outside of their shop but communication wasn’t great and it didn’t happen. If you can get it outside or close to somewhere vegan friendly then it’s a lot easier as you’re unlikely to get hassle from the authorities and also they might have space in their back rooms for you to store food and bags. Also it’s always good if you can get yourself close to a health food shop that sells what you’re handing out. Otherwise, make sure you know where the closest retailers are.
One big tip from me: Think about how you’re going to get all of this stuff to your location. Think about how many samples you will have and if one car is big enough. Think about how accessible your location is from where you are able to unload it all. I ended up needing two cars and we had to navigate our way through Allders to get to our spot (which ended up being not where we wanted it to be originally because everything was just too heavy) Learn from my painful mistake!
Think about what day you want to do it and what time you will think works best. I wanted it to be busy so I picked a Saturday and decided to get myself set up by 11.30am, just catching people before they were off out to get their lunch.

Food

The most important part of the event. I needed to get hold of great vegan food! The first thing I did was email a load of vegan and also some non vegan companies who made great vegan products. A lot of people can organise these kinds of events in a few weeks, but I like to spread the work out as I work full time and don’t like to get too stressed. I emailed everyone at least 3 weeks before the event so that we could arrange deliveries. I tried to get everything delivered to me a week ahead so that I didn’t have to panic. The following companies provided me with some amazing samples and they really helped make the event the huge success that it was
Having donations from these companies meant that we had sausage rolls, sausages, chocolate, vegan cheese, vegan desserts and a non dairy milk for the public to try. I think it was a great variety of substitutes to introduce people to.
After getting donations from companies I also asked for volunteers to bring food along. We had some fantastic homemade cake, cookies and also donations of other mock meats and popular sweets that are accidentally vegan.
Think about what food you want to sample. Remember, you cannot cook food in public without permission from the council. I went for finger foods that are okay to be sampled cold. Next time I want to have a few salads and cold pasta dishes.

Leaflets

It’s all well and good having great food to hand out but you also need to educate people at the same time. I wanted to get a variety of ‘fluffy’ vegan leaflets to hand out. By ‘fluffy’, I mean leaflets that educate people but don’t have nasty images on the front that could put people off. Those leaflets do have their place (and I kept some behind the stall for people who wanted more information) but I wanted a really light, fun atmosphere that would even encourage people who would usually be set against the idea of living a vegan lifestyle. I got my leaflets from
The leaflets from The Vegan Society and Animal Aid were all completely free and these guys were super helpful in getting me set up with stuff. The Vegan Society will give you a larger quantity of leaflets if it’s for a stall, so make sure to let them know when you contact them. Animal Aid have a fantastic Vegan Starter booklet as well as their other campaign material that is full of recipes. A lot of Viva’s campaign materials need to be paid for, but they do some great leaflets aimed at teenagers and some other great stuff too. They weren’t as great at communicating with me when I emailed though and I probably needed to badger them more than I did.

Volunteers

I think it’s best to have one Organiser but you will need volunteers! Over the course of the day, I had six volunteers helping me out, and I have to say, I needed every single one of them. The stall got incredibly busy and everyone was constantly engaged handing out leaflets/food or talking to people at the stall. You will also need people so that you can replenish samples when they’re running low, put the vegan cheese on biscuits or maybe even pop to the 99p store to get more supplies should you need them.

To Advertise or Not to Advertise

If you’re going to do your stall on a busy street, you don’t really need to advertise the event because the free food will pull people in. I did a bit of advertising online for volunteers and to vegetarians who might want to go vegan. I was careful not to be too vocal about it (hence why there was no blog post beforehand) because I didn’t want a load of vegans coming and eating the free food. Seriously, I know what you vegans are like with your samples, you greedy bastards!
I also advertised at The Ship pub in Croydon as they’re very vegan friendly and they were also screening Earthlings the weekend before my event. I went along with leaflets, slips with details of my event and free cake to try and get people who were effected by the film to come along. That was extra though and not necessary, simply setting up with a great looking stall will grab peoples attention.

Fundraising


I didn’t spend a great deal on this event, and most of the costs were for reusable plates and boxes, or bulk shot glasses and cocktail sticks that will last me ages. However, you should never be out of pocket if you can’t afford to be. So either have a scaled down event (one table, 3-4 leaflets and 2-3 different samples) or raise some funds to make it a bit bigger. I sold cakes on the SEAR stall at Carshalton Environmental Fair and raised £100 for the group, I used a bit of that money to fund the event. If there isn’t an event for you to sell cakes at, raise money from friends, family or people at work or whatever else takes your fancy. It’s not hard to raise £20-£30 to buy some napkins and paper plates or whatever.

Other bits you will need


  • Tables – If you don’t have tables to do a stall, try and contact your local AR group or campaigners in your area to see if you can borrow tables. Otherwise they can be bought fairly cheaply.
  • Reusable plates and trays – A little set up cost that will make your stall look more professional and will save you buying loads of disposable trays and plates in the future. I got some really cute, colourful trays from the 99p store.
  • Napkins, table cloths, spoons, forks and plates – Depending on what you’re sampling, make sure you have enough equipment to hand out samples! Also, think about what food you’re handing out. I bought loads of plates but didn’t even end up using them because everything I gave out was finger food. Check prices of plates and utensils online to make sure you’re getting the best price. You shouldn’t have to fork out huge amounts of money for this.
  • Storage and containers – You will be surprised at the amount of samples you’ll receive. Cheap plastic storage boxes and tupperware is great for carrying leaflets and samples. I wish I’d got myself a pull along shopping trolley to put all my leaflets in!
  • A banner – I didn’t do this and I regret it. Make yourself a banner for the front of your stall, you want people to see that you’re giving away FREE VEGAN FOOD!
  • Bin bags – keep your area tidy and don’t be a litter bug
  • Pen and paper – bloody people asking for bloody extra information…don’t get caught out like I did.
  • Sellotape. Could be a windy day, take some incase you need to stick table cloths down.
  • Baby wipes – When puddings and cakes get involved, shit get’s sticky. That is all.

So, How Did It Go?


It was a really great day and it’s left me feeling really positive. We got a lot of interest throughout the day and definitely have two or three people who are committing to veganism. This may seem like a small amount of people, but that will be thousands of lives saved, as well as having more vegans in the community to influence friends and family to make changes. We’ll also have planted the seed in many people about veganism.
I think the public’s opinion on vegan diets is definitely changing. There were only a few people who were negative about what was available and everyone who tried the food liked at least one or two of the products on the table. I found sausage rolls, cookies and cake were the most popular items. Chocolate went down well and surprisingly, so did the vegan cheese! Sausage samples were liked by everyone who tried them but there were a few people who were reluctant to have a sample. Having a non dairy milk that was also an alternative to soya was a great benefit. Whenever someone moaned about drinking soya milk, I just pointed them to the samples of Kara. It was ace!
I was happy with how we set up the stall. We had two tables, one with mainly food on it and the other with most of the leaflets. We made sure to have the vegan starter packs and company leaflets around the products though, so that people couldn’t just grab and go. Most people walked away with at least one piece of information.
I’m also pleased that I made sure to cut up all of the samples before we left the house. The only thing we had to do was replenish samples, talk to people, hand out leaflets and one person had to put the cream Sheese on crackers and top up shot glasses of Kara. If we’d had to cut up sausages and Sheese it would have got very messy!
We had a few cheeky people who kept coming back for freebies. After approaching the stall three times we politely told them to take some information, go and think about it and leave samples for other people to try. This approach seemed to go down well and stopped people taking the piss. We only had two people come and do this though, and I was expecting more.

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!


I have lots of people to thank.
Thank you to all the volunteers who dropped off food and helped throughout the day. Your help and support has been amazing and I couldn’t have pulled it off without you.
Thank you to Fry’s Vegetarian, Bute Island, Plamil, Kara and Provamel for all your samples. They were all loved and a great contribution. Keep up the great work!
Thank you Animal Aid and The Vegan Society for all your help and the free leaflets. Hopefully you will get some more membership after this event.

What Can You Do?


Why not get involved in some Vegan Outreach yourself? It’s a very positive form of campaigning and something that is easy to get involved with even if you’ve not been active before. It’s great to know you’ve gone out there and spread the word about veganism!
We need more to do more Vegan Outreach! We won’t just turn people vegan by living our lives as vegan (though don’t get me wrong, it does make a difference) we need to get out there and spread the message! Show people what they’re missing out on and that a vegan lifestyle is the way towards a healthier, environmentally friendly and cruelty free life. 
I will be doing more of these in the Croydon area. If you’re local and want to help out at future events, please contact me. If you want to set up your own stall and want some advice, drop me an email:
sophie@hastalavegan.com
Thanks for reading. Hope you’re all feeling inspired, I know I am!
Sophie 
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