Looking for a summer camp that gives kids the knowledge, motivation, confidence and skills they need to make a positive difference in the world? And that serves vegan food? Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will teach kids to be leaders, activists, compassionate citizens, and solutionaries. Read on to learn more about the inspiring, life-changing YEA camp... Guest Post by Nora Kramer, Executive Director of Youth Empowered Action Camp (YEA)
Many veg kids and their parents are accustomed to being one of a small minority not wanting to eat hot dogs, hamburgers, and other typical meat-based meals at school or camp, and perhaps tolerating some ignorant remarks from others, maybe about the food chain or a desert island.
But what about a summer camp that serves all vegan food, and has plenty of other campers and staff who also care about animals, the planet, and good health? Or a camp that is all about helping youth get more involved in community service, social justice, and activism for causes they care about? That is Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp
, a week-long overnight camp with locations in northern California, Oregon, and Massachusetts.
YEA Camp, which is prepping for its fifth summer of programs for youth 12-17, is first and foremost a leadership program for young people who want to make a difference in the world. YEA's purpose is to support youth in getting active on an issue they care about once camp is over. The curriculum -- designed to build campers' knowledge, skills, confidence, and community support -- is engaging and fun, tapping into and expanding campers' passions and interests while affirming their power to make an impact on social issues they care about. Campers choose issues such as factory farming, school bullying, environmental protection, gay marriage, and more. They learn skills like how to start a school club, fundraise, and use art and social media for social change.
Alumni campers have done so many inspiring things after camp, it's hard to keep track or be surprised anymore. From launching school clubs, getting more vegan options in the school cafeteria, initiating school-wide anti-bullying programs, ending dissection in school biology classes, leading neighborhood clean-ups, holding fundraisers, and volunteering or interning with different nonprofit organizations, YEA Campers go home and make a difference on issues they care about for years to come.
While all of YEA Camp's food is vegan, being vegetarian or vegan is certainly not a requirement to attend, and in fact many campers have never given any more thought to going veg than the average teen. The vegan food is not the point of the camp -- changing the world is. YEA Camp seeks to bring our actions into alignment with our values and commitment to peace, compassion, equity, sustainability, and social justice. YEA Camp tries to model "being the change we wish to see in the world," as Gandhi said. Serving meat or dairy would undermine everything we are standing for.
At the beginning of camp, many non-veg campers are nervous about the food, while other campers who are vegan or vegetarian are beyond thrilled to be able to eat everything, and to not have to ask questions or eat the "alternative" or "special" meal at the side table, like at other camps. In the end, though, everyone is beyond impressed at the deliciousness of vegan cuisine, with kid-friendly meals such as French toast and pancakes for breakfast, mac n' cheeze and burritos for lunch, pizza with Daiya and veggie sushi for dinner, and chocolate chip cookies and brownies for dessert. Don't worry, there's also plenty of veggies and salads and gluten- and soy-free and other options too!
YEA Camp is an opportunity for youth to meet like-minded peers and adults, to pursue a cause that really matters to them, to get encouragement and training on how to make a difference in ways that feel right for them, and to have what many campers describe as a life-changing and unforgettable experience. And to eat amazing vegan food for a week while having a great time. Not a bad way to answer the question "How did you spend your summer vacation?"
YEA Camp 2013 will be held: California: July 14-21Oregon: July 27-August 3Massachusetts: August 10-17YEA Camp helps to make arrangements for youth flying in from out of the area. To learn more about YEA Camp, take a look at this two-minute video or visit www.yeacamp.org.
Kids are the future of the vegan movement, so it's crucial that we involve them at events, conferences and festivals. Thank you to the NYC Veg Festival for offering a dedicated space just for families-- a place for parents to stop by and pick up information about raising vegan kids, and where kids could participate in vegan-friendly activities that promote kindness and compassion towards animals. The kids and their parents were inspired and empowered to make a difference for animals, the environment, and their own health. With the help of my husband, I set up the children's area literature table with coloring books, wristbands, bookmarks, tattoos, comic books, stickers, and other materials for kids and their parents. We also had fun, giveaway prizes. Thank you to all the wonderful organizations for participating including Teachkind, Vegbooks, Mitch Spinach, Today I Ate a Rainbow, Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp, Kids Gone Raw, Grey2K USA, and the individuals who participated including NYC Vegetarian and Vegan Families Meetup members, Lottie Hanson and Christina Burke, HEART Humane Educator, Kim Korona, Institute for Humane Education graduate student, Kate Skwire, Vegbooks Outreach Coordinator, Jennifer Gannett, Super Sprowtz founder, Radha Agrawal, Certified Holistic Health Coach, Ellie Aaron Chef Maddie Sobel from PCRM (Physicians for Responsible Medicine), Fiona Walsh from the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, nutrition and wellness consultant, Jennifer Medley, and Vegan Chef and Yoga Teacher, April Dechagas.
We also had a table for kids to play the animal-friendly board game, Fur & Feathers, as well as table filled with printouts to color, including this fun Vegan Plate page. Another table was set up for the activities, including making healthy vegan snacks such as rice/kale balls and rice cakes with hummus/apple butter/apple sauce spreads, seeds and grapes used for making faces. There was a mat for kids to sit on and read from our kid's vegan library with books provided by Vegbooks. There was also a table set up for puppetmaking.Also, congratulations to Danette Suarez who guessed how many fruits and veggies were in this jar (below). She guessed the exact number- 401!! The prize.... a Rainbow Kit donated by Kia Robertson from Today I Ate a Rainbow! Danette is a second grade teacher so she is looking forward to using it in her classroom!
Guess how many fruits and veggies?
Here are photos from the children's area...
Such a wonderful, jam-packed weekend full of activities to inspire and empower kids to be kind to animals...and eat healthy! Thank you to all who participated and made the children's area special for all of the kids and parents who stopped by.
My Talk on Raising Vegan Kids
I shared personal experiences as well as ideas, tips and resources I've gained from researching and talking with other vegan/vegetarian parents.
Laying the Foundation Early to Raise a Compassionate, Healthy Child
Pregnancy Research shows that what a woman eats during pregnancy may shape food preferences later in life. In the womb, the baby gulps down several ounces of amniotic fluid a day and this fluid is flavored by the foods and beverages the mother has eaten. So what you eat in pregnancy can result in preferences for certain foods for a lifetime. In other words, if you eat broccoli while you're pregnant, there's a much better chance your baby will like broccoli. So for the sake of your baby, eat a varied, healthy diet and skip the soda, chips and ice cream!
Research also shows that the foods our children eat in the first 15 years of their lives is critical and has more of an impact in determining later diseases and illnesses than the last 50yrs of your life.Here are a few tips to help develop HEALTHY eating patterns in children: Healthy eating is really 2 parts: It’s what we DON’T feed our kids (animal products), and its about what we DO and SHOULD feed our kids. Healthy eating is about adding nutrient-dense foods into your diet that fight cancer and other illnesses, and provide phytonutrients to keep us healthy. (Read: Disease Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right by Dr. Joel Fuhrman)
Be Consistent: it can take up to 15 times exposure to a food before a child accepts/likes a food. Don't give up!
Be a good role model: you can’t snack on oreos and potato chips and expect your child to eat carrots and celery. Let your child see you eating healthy foods. Eat together.
Cook and bake with your kids: kids are more apt to try something that they’ve helped make. My daughter helps me by mixing and pouring ingredients, mashing up tofu in her hands for tofu scramble, ripping kale, and adding fruits to the blender for green smoothies. An added bonus is that she often eats half of it before the recipe is even finished! Buy kid-friendly baking tools, and a fun apron. This also reinforces science/math/motor skills!Bring kids grocery shopping: let them pick out foods that they already like and also challenge them to find new foods that they want to try. Adults should do this too!
Grow vegetables in your backyard or windowsill if possible. Go to a farm to see vegetables growing in the ground. Also, pick-your-own fruits and veggies in season.
Remove the competition: just as you remove meat and dairy from your households, you should also remove the junk and processed foods. If kids are hungry and there isn't any junk food around, they'll be forced to grab something healthy to eat. Keep fruits and veggies visible out on the counter so when kids are hungry, that's the first thing they'll see/grab.
Redefine the word “snack” dessert” etc: snacks don’t have to be crackers, chips, ice cream, or sugary stuff, they can be what we typically view as breakfast, dinner, or side dishes. (Ex. pieces of roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, chunks of tofu). Dessert can be fruit, not ice cream. Try freezing 3 bananas and then blending them in a processor/vitamix, and you instantly have creamy banana ice cream using only one healthy ingredient (add peanut butter too)!
Be Creative: make art/faces out of fruits and veggies. Put food on a kabob. Use cookie cutters to make shapes. Tell a story about a bunny who loved carrots, or Mitch Spinach, etc. Kia Robertson from Today I Ate a Rainbow recommends making it fun!Doctors- Dr’s receive little to no nutrition education (20hrs average, but some don't receive any training) in med school. Their courses have a heavy emphasis on treatment and pharmaceuticals, rather than prevention. It’s likely in regards to nutrition that you know more than them. Dr's always want to fatten up thin kids to get them on par with the rest of the kids in this country (obesity epidemic!), but because veg kids often eat more fruit, veggies and other lower calorie but higher nutrient-dense foods instead of high-calorie, high fat foods such as doritos, ice cream and mac & cheese, then it's common sense that they will be thinner.
Don’t worry about being perfect: the typical standard American toddler eats the same few foods over and over (chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, ice cream, pizza) so by not feeding these foods, you’re already ahead of the game! It's not about purity, it's about the overall picture.
1) Protein- if you’re eating a sufficient caloric diet, then it’s almost impossible to be deficient in protein. The protein myth in this country was created by meat industry, and we typically get 400x more protein that we need. Animal protein is what’s killing us! According to Forks Over Knives...“We’ve never treated a single patient with protein deficiency, yet the majority of patients we see are suffering from heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases resulting from trying to get enough protein” 2) 25% toddlers between 1-2yrs old eat no fruits/veggies at all!
3) American kids eat less than 2% of their entire diet from fruits/veggies! They move into adulthood eating 90% of their calories from dairy products, white flour, sugar, and oil.
4) Heart Disease risk factors are being seen in kids as young as 10yrs old.
5) CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has predicted that this is the first generation of children that may NOT outlive their parents.
6) By the time American children are 15 months old, French fries have become their most commonly consumed vegetable.
Kids don't want to feel left out or different; they want to fit in with their peers. So it's our job as parents to help them with this. There are also ways for kids to gain a better understanding and appreciation for why their family is choosing a vegan diet. Here are a few suggestions: Visit a farm sanctuary- so kids can get up close and personal with rescued animals
. These sanctuaries are very successful in creating a powerful, long-lasting connection to animals. Kids are less likely to want to eat animals after meeting them. Since most vegans don’t visit zoos, this can be a good replacement for that. Make holidays and events extra special- you can come up with new family traditions, but try to also include some classic traditions that other kids will be doing- just do it with a vegan twist. Nowadays almost everything can be "veganized." For example, you can make a vegan gingerbread house, color wooden or paper mache eggs instead of dying real eggs, snack on vegan jelly beans
, and make vegan candy corn for Halloween.Read kids books that affirm vegan values- where animals are respected and shown in a positive light, rather than being used by humans in exploitative situations such as in zoos, circuses, and horse-drawn carriages. Skip the books that show kids eating hot dogs, drinking milk, eating ice cream, fishing, etc. Vegbooks is the best online resource for finding veg-friendly books. Also read books about brave people throughout history who were once viewed as being different and in the minority such as those who worked for the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and civil rights but were later viewed as heroes, who despite challenges, spoke up for what was right.
Find a vegetarian/vegan parenting group in your community, and if there isn’t one, start your own. It’s really important for kids to be around other veg kids, and it’s also a great resource for veg parents to get together with other like-minded parents to exchange advice, ideas/tips, recipes, etc. If you live in the NYC area, join the NYC Vegetarian and Vegan Families Meetup
. Show your kids the power of activism. If they feel strongly about a specific animal or issue, encourage them to join a protest, write a letter to a newspaper, have a vegan bake sale, hand out literature, or create an art project. They’ll most likely have fun doing this, and it will teach them to be a voice for the voiceless.
Remember there are opportunities for teaching kindness and empathy all around us- here in NYC every time I step outside I come across pigeons, squirrels, and bugs such as spiders, ants and flies. Teach kids to respect these not so cute and cuddly creatures as well. Encourage your kids to stop and watch their behaviors. Instill curiosity and reverence. Model kindness by teaching them to never intentionally step on creatures/animals, chase them, or hit them.
Take advantage of social media to create a virtual support community. Ask questions, get advice and share some of your own tips and ideas with other vegetarian/vegan parents. Follow on Twitter & Pinterest and LIKE on Facebook any and all pages related to vegan kids/vegan parenting. You will be exposed to wonderful articles, recipes, ideas, and inspiration.
I wrote a post for Girlie Girl Army that I wanted to re-share on my website. It’s a piece for parents who are raising vegan kids. I hope it will give you the courage and pride to raise a child according to principles of integrity and compassion. Here it is!
"Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar." -- Bradley Miller
ORIGINAL ON Girlie Girl Army:"When I tell people that I’m raising my child vegan, I sometimes feel as though I have to defend and explain my decision. My decision is passive, I'm just leaving out certain foods from her diet. But parents who are feeding their kids meat, dairy, and eggs are actively adding in foods. So shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t they have to defend their decision to purchase that hot dog that came from a pig who never stepped foot on grass or saw the sky (except from the slot in the truck on her way to the slaughterhouse) and whose mother was forced to live in a tiny metal crate amid her own urine and feces, where she was unable to even turn around or take a step forward or backward for weeks on end?
Why don’t parents who are feeding their kids meat and other products taken from animals have to defend their decision? They’re giving their kids cow’s milk, which is exactly that … cow’s milk! Isn’t that a little strange? It’s meant to fatten up calves. Humans are the only species that drinks another species’ milk, and we’re the only species that drinks any milk past infancy. Casino mogul Steve Wynn said it best: “It’s liquid cholesterol!”
What exactly is it that people are concerned that my child will be missing out on … high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity? It surely can’t be protein, calcium, or iron because there are tons of healthy plant-based sources (spinach, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, beans, and fortified juices, cereals, pasta, etc.) that don’t have the added fat and cholesterol, not to mention the hormones and antibiotics.
The sad truth is, in this society, any behavior or child-rearing decision that goes against the norm is often seen as wrong or irresponsible. Even weird. And that’s a shame because it often prevents people (in this case, parents) from doing the right thing. Unfortunately, society’s backlash is a strong deterrent, and so is the desire to adhere to the status quo.
NYC Veggie Parade, 2012
Despite the many studies indicating that vegan diets are not only appropriate for children, but may in fact be healthier (for example, the American Dietetic Association—the nation’s largest group of nutrition professionals—stated, “Well-planned vegan diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes”), parents are still opting to add animal products to their children’s diet, mainly as a result of tradition and being constantly bombarded with messages from the dairy and meat industries. Years of slogans like “Milk does the body good” and “You need meat for protein” have been drilled into our heads by multi-billion dollar industries pushing their products. If milk does the body so “good” then why is it that the countries that consume the most milk are also the countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis- and vice versa. And the more animal protein that a population consumes, the higher the prevalence of osteoporosis. There is a big protein myth out there, but the fact is Americans eat about 400% more protein than necessary, and even vegetarians eat more than they need.
It would be unethical for me to feed my child meat, dairy, or eggs based on what I know about how animals are raised for food. You can look the other way or deny that it’s as bad as they say, but the truth is, the majority of meat/dairy and eggs sold in this country (>95%) come from animals who have been raised in appalling conditions in overcrowded, filthy warehouses, where they are crammed into small cages and crates and denied basic necessities, including fresh air, sunshine, grass, and companionship. Simply put, I don’t believe that animals should be treated like this, so I’m choosing to leave cruel animal products out of my child’s diet. I’m teaching her that if she wants to help end animal suffering and also not knowingly contribute to major environmental problems including climate change, water and air pollution, deforestation, and soil erosion she has to be a part of the solution, and that means not supporting it (with dollars). This is what it really means to live according to your values.
Catskill Animal Sanctuary
People raise their children according to their own set of morals and values. Just like a Buddhist wouldn’t raise her child Catholic and an environmentalist wouldn’t raise his child to be wasteful, I wouldn’t serve my child chicken fingers or ice cream. Children are little extensions of ourselves (at least until they’re old enough to make their own decisions). In our society, we typically do not allow children to make the decision to participate in anything that is morally questionable until they are of age. Since I consider the way that animals are raised for food in this country to be morally abhorrent, I therefore would not impose animal products upon my child and would not allow her to make that decision until she is old enough to think critically and understand the consequences.
So instead of focusing on what a vegan child is not getting (fat-laden, cholesterol-filled slabs of meat as well as milk, cheese, and eggs from miserable animals who’ve been raised in terrible conditions), let’s focus on what they are getting (a healthy balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds). And my daughter is getting a whole lot more than that including a moral compass based on compassion, justice, courage, and integrity. So if you’re raising a vegan child like I am, stop being on the defensive, and start embracing it! Be proud that you are living with intention and consciously choosing compassion over cruelty!"
This is one of those posts that gives me hope and a glimpse into what the future can (and should) look like. If we all start voting with our dollars, it can be a future where everyday items such as food, clothing, and personal & home products are replaced with cruelty-free vegan replicas. For example, if we can make clothes and accessories that look, feel, and function the same as those that are non-vegan, then we are on our way to a more compassionate, just world-- one that doesn't exploit animals. In this post, professional dancer, Cynthia King brings us one of these items....beautiful vegan ballet slippers! Read and share this post with other parents...
Vegan Ballet Slippers
Guest post by Cynthia King, Professional Dancer and Creator of vegan ballet slippers.
I first made the connection between the animals that I loved and the food on one’s plate years before I was a professional dancer, at age 10. It drove me to become vegetarian, then vegan. Later it guided me to create Cynthia King Vegan Ballet Slippers.
Dance celebrates the beauty of life. It’s true that some dancers suffer for their art, but people who do that have chosen to. Animals who suffer for the sake of performances whether because they are performing or their skins are being used for dance shoes have no say in their fate. As a dancer, and a vegan, I didn’t want any animal to suffer for the sake of my art. As a young dancer I searched for a vegan ballet slipper and had no success finding a suitable alternative. When I became a teacher, students and their parents asked me to recommend shoes--there just were no good ethical options available. That’s when I decided to create my own vegan ballet slippers. After a lengthy development process, the first shoes were ready in 2003. Today Cynthia King Vegan Ballet Slippers come in three colors (peach pink, pastel pink, and black) and are sized for children and adults, suitable for both male and female dancers. They are the only ready-to-wear vegan slippers produced worldwide, and the orders we receive from around the globe reflect that. The slippers have seen their share of the spotlight too, having been secured for Voguephoto shoots as well as being used by Alvin Ailey dance camps to outfit their campers. Not too long ago young Cynthia King Dance Studio students participated in a photo shoot (pictured below) featuring the vegan ballet slippers at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. It helped the dancers to connect the vegan slippers with the individual animals they were saving by wearing them. It warms my heart each time an order comes in, because I know that every pair purchased means that someone has chosen compassion over cruelty. And I love seeing them on all of my young students’ feet, knowing that no animals have suffered for the sake of their dance.
Dancers with vegan ballet slippers at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.
In addition to my vegan ballet slippers, I create a lot of dance pieces at Cynthia King Dance Studio (my school in Brooklyn) that are about animals. I’ve choreographed dances that celebrate the ways animals move, and one that served as an exposeé about animals in entertainment. Recently I created a piece titled, “Dinner” in which dancers played animals on a plate and then performed as ghosts of their former selves describing in movement what it was like to be alive. I’m looking forward to staging another production in October 2012 that will again take on animal issues through the art of dance. I’m very interested in community, as well; both participating in the ones I am a member of, and creating community at Cynthia King Dance Studio. One way of fostering community that I am especially fond of is holding vegan events at my studio. Not too long ago, I hosted “A Children’s Celebration of Farm Animals,” with children dancing as animals and author Maya Gottfried reading from her picture book, Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary. More recently I held a screening of Marisa Miller Wolfson’s wonderful documentary, Vegucated at the studio, followed by a reception featuring hors d’oeuvres by Brooklyn vegan restaurant, The V Spot. It was a wonderful way to bring all of my worlds together.
Editor's Note: You don't have to be a vegan to buy these vegan ballet slippers. If you care about animals, and want to help reduce their suffering one step at a time, this is a perfect way to make a difference. Order a pair for your child and be proud that you are choosing compassion over cruelty. Your kids will feel proud too!
Cynthia King, a professional dancer since 1978, has been teaching and choreographing for children and adults since 1986. She trained extensively at the Boston Conservatory and The Ailey School, honing her skills under the tutelage of legendary dancers including Carmen De Lavallade, and Rod Rodgers of whose dance company she was a member. Ms. King has been credited by the New York Department of Education with developing “…one of the most comprehensive dance programs in the district.” In 2002, Ms. King launched the Cynthia King Dance Studio where her innovative curriculum embraces classical to emerging styles including ballet, tap, modern, B-boy/B-girl, and hip hop. Combining her passion for dance and compassion for animals, Ms. King developed ready-to-wear cruelty free, vegan ballet slippers. The slippers are popular worldwide and are the required slipper for two of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's innovative camps. Ms. King is an energetic community member and activist, having served on the Board of Flatbush Family Network, Vote Humane, and Windsor Terrace Alliance, and currently serving on the Board of Directors for Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. She and the studio proudly support the PTAs of local public schools, DanceNYC, Our Hen House, Farm Sanctuary, and Animals Asia. Ms. King lives with her husband, two sons, two dogs and one cat in Kensington, Brooklyn.
RaisingVegKids loves Ruby Roth! Ruby recently wrote a blog post for our site; if you haven’t read it yet, check it out: Armed and Prepared….Some Advice For Vegan Parents. In it, she shares some valuable tips on how to make sure you are prepared with information when it comes to raising your kids vegan, especially when the inevitable “expert” teachers, doctors, and other parents will come out of the woodwork with their opinions. You’ll hear the same matter-of-fact assertions: Kids need milk for calcium and growing bones, they need meat for protein, etc. This is outdated, and furthermore inaccurate (according to the American Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics "well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets can satisfy the nutritional needs and promote normal growth of infants and young children"). So Ruby urges veg parents to be ready!
Vegan is Love by Ruby Roth
Ruby has been under fire recently for her new book, Vegan Love, which hits shelves this week. This is Ruby’s second book for kids about veganism. Her first is That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. Ruby has faced critics of her new book on shows including The Today Show and Fox News. Her critics have been less than impressive. For example, when some of them recently kicked the nutrition-babble into high-gear, with oddball claims such as asserting that a “flexitarian” diet can “advance your nutritional status (emphasis added),” that’s when I knew they were simply grasping at sraws. What the heck does “nutritional status” even mean and how is it relevant to a childrens book?
Only slightly less bizarre, but more worthy of discussion, are the criticism of opponents of the book who speculate that its themes are too scary and violent for kids (images of animals in labs, factory farms, etc). ….and Ruby responded back that if it was too scary and violent for kids to read, then it’s probably not something you’d want to eat (or support).
Click to see Ruby Roth debating a psychologist on FOX News
The irony in all of this is that when we look at some of the most famous kids books in the world, that’s where we'll find the truly scary, graphic, and even violent themes. We see Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandma eaten by a wolf, Hansel & Gretel caged by a witch in preparation to be baked in an oven, the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz literally lighting people on fire, Snow White being poisoned to death, and the list goes on and on. Scary? Violent? But these are timeless classics! Yet, what Ruby depicts in her book (which is actually non-fiction) is somehow deemed objectionable. If her book didn’t have to do with the hot-topic of food choices and animal treatment, I wonder if people would still find it objectionable?
It’s interesting that gratuitous violence in mainstream kids’ books, cartoons, and films is considered appropriate, but as soon a book with a positive message about being compassionate towards animals (including those we eat) comes out, suddenly there are national headlines and a fear that kids are going to be somehow psychologically damaged to hear that people can mistreat animals. It seems that, as long as the the moral of the story doesn’t involve something as “personal” as our food choices then these are just themes kids should hear as part of growing up and is not disturbing at all. Let’s face it, that’s just intellectual and moral laziness.
I don’t believe that parents, if they knew, would want to continue perpetuating the myth (aka lying) to their kids about how animals are treated in industries that use and kill animals. Every other book you pick up at the library or bookstore shows a happy animal dancing in a circus, frolicking in a zoo, or living peacefully on a sunny farm. Aren’t we as parents supposed to be
relaying accurate information to our kids to help them make kind choices, especially when it involves our deepest convictions, and ethics? Even (or especially) if the reality isn’t pretty? No doubt the issues Ruby covers in her book are not sugar-coated, including the nasty, cruel business of factory farming, however, from what I’ve seen so far, neither are they out of bounds, age inappropriate, or overly graphic. So we could either tell the truth to children, or ignore it and keep reading books about happy cows being milked and elephants having a jolly ol’ time performing in the circus. Through books, many parents teach their kids about serious issues including not talking to strangers, the harm in bullying, and inappropriate contact with others. These issues are not always happy, and in fact some are very scary, but they’re important nonetheless. There can be no “moral” of any story without a choice between good and bad, and that’s what makes Ruby’s book similar to so many of the best books we all fondly remember from childhood.
With age-appropriate honesty, popular kids books already cover once-controversial issues such as poverty, the environment, endangered species, civil rights, prejudice, and bullying. My hunch is that the controversy being stirred around a similar truthfulness regarding issues of animal treatment is much less about the children and more about parents feeling uncomfortable about having to square their own values with the reality of animal use and mistreatment. I’m sure that once we as parents do a little growing up, we can get back to one of our first responsibilities, teaching our children right from wrong (hopefully, without all of the convenient, and even bizarre, excuses we makeup mostly for ourselves).
For more veg-friendly kids books, check out Vegbooks.
Post by Robyn Moore
I'm excited to introduce this post, not just because it's a great recipe for kids to eat and make, but also because it's written by one of my very best friends from elementary school, Heidi Rogers! She shares a recipe for a delicious and healthy soup that's especially perfect for teachers to make with their students...so grab a baguette and get started!
Guest Post by Heidi Rogers
My 3 year old daughter Elizabeth honored me with an invitation to her nursery school’s Special Person’s Lunch. What would be on the menu? It was a valid question. It was, in fact, 3 year olds cooking! All I knew was that Elizabeth needed to bring a vegetable to school that day. I sent her with 3 potatoes!
Well, as all the “Special People” sat down for lunch, my question was answered. We were served Friendship Soup that her class had cooked. Each child contributed a vegetable and a soup was created; a vegan soup made with love. The children were so proud to be serving us their own cooking creation.
The following weekend, my daughter wanted to make Friendship Soup at home, for Robyn and her daughter, Charlotte. They were coming to visit for a few days. So here is our creation. I think it was a big hit because Robyn and Charlotte ate it for 3 meals during their stay! Please notice that the ingredients are very flexible. Use what you have in your fridge and cabinet, use what is in-season, and use what you were given in your CSA.
2 onions- chopped
4 cloves of garlic
(2) 32 oz boxes of vegetable stock*
6-8 carrots cut into small pieces
1 small eggplant cut into small pieces
2 large zucchini cut into small pieces
2-3 celery stalks cut into small pieces
29 oz can of tomato puree
28 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes
2 cans 15 oz cannellini beans - washed and drained
2 cans 15 oz red kidney beans- washed and drained
Package of baby spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
Pasta of your choice: my daughter chose a box of pasta that looked like wheels!
Other options: mushrooms, different beans, French style green beans, quinoa, lentils, and/or basil.
In a large saucepan on medium begin to heat the olive oil. Cut onions and saute in the olive oil. When onions are just cooked (5-7 minutes) add garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Add a splash of vegetable stock to slow the garlic’s cooking process. Add all the chopped vegetables and saute over medium heat. Continue to stir and add stock to help vegetables cook. When carrots begin to soften add the remainder of the stock (one or two boxes*), puree, tomatoes, beans, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Pile spinach on top of soup and cover for a few minutes until spinach is wilted and can be stirred easily into soup.
Reduce the heat, cover and let simmer for approximately 1 hour until the vegetables are tender. Check soup every once in a while, stir and adjust stock to your preference.
I cook the pasta separately and add it into soup bowls individually. This allows you to easily freeze any left over soup and make fresh pasta each time you want soup.
*The amount of stock added is up to you. Do you want soup? Or stew?
Have fun and let the kids help....
Washing the vegetables
Cutting the zucchini. Very serious!
The finished product....yum!
Enjoy the Friendship Soup!
Editor's Note: After (or even before) making this wonderful soup, you can read, Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert together. It's the perfect book! Read the review at Vegbooks. Also click here for lots of fun vegetable-related games and crafts, and printable coloring pages.
Heidi Rogers is a full-time mom to her two beautiful daughters in Mystic, CT. She has her master's degree in elementary education and is a former teacher. When she is not taking care of her kids, or working for her husband's dermatology office, she enjoys sewing, staying up to date on her favorite crafting blogs, gardening, healthy cooking, and enjoying the great outdoors with her family.
I was really excited to make these Easter cookies, particularly the icing. I was determined to not buy any store-bought artificial food coloring, so I tested out a natural food "dye" that was safe and vegan....and came from a fruit. Using a bag of frozen, organic raspberries, I was able to create a beautiful, bright pink colored icing! Read on for this simple recipe...
Having fun making Easter cookies
Easter bunnies, chirping chicks, flowers in bloom, and....easter cookies! Holidays are always a fun excuse to make (and eat) cookies, so with the materials and ingredients in hand, my daughter Charlotte and I got started. Although I love my go-to delicious and easy-to-make sugar cookie recipe (from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar) that I use for Christmas Cookies, I decided to try out a new recipe. This is also a fun, kind alternative to coloring easter eggs.
It's pretty simple and tasty, so here it is:Vegan Sugar Cookies
3Tbsp Ener-G egg replacer powder (you can get this in any health food store or online here)
1/4c. warm water
3 3/4c. flour
2tsp baking powder
1c. vegan butter
1c. white granulated sugar
1/4c vegan cream cheese (Tofutti is a good brand)
1tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
1. Combine the Ener-G egg placer powder with the warm water, whisking until gooey. Set aside.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the vegan butter and sugar using an electric hand mixer for 3-4 minutes,
or until creamy and fluffy. Add the egg replacer mixture, vegan cream cheese and vanilla, beating until just combined. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating to form a stiff dough. Form the dough into two discs, wrap inplastic wrap, and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4" thickness (if it is a little hard and dry from the fridge, wait a few minutes). Using floured cookie cutters, cut out your cookie shapes, and place each on the prepared baking sheet about 1" apart. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely before decorating.
Yield: About 3 dozen cookies
Note: Don't let the "vegan" ingredients scare you off. The Ener-G egg replacer is available in most health food stores or online. Recipes call for such a small amount, that I've had the same box for more than a year. So skip the eggs, and buy a box and keep it on hand. The vegan cream cheese and vegan margarine are available in most mainstream stores nowadays, including Stop & Shop, C-Town, Key Foods, Price Chopper, Safeway, Albertson's, Publix, etc. and of course, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.
Here's Charlotte mixing up the ingredients....
...and licking the spoon (no salmonella worries because there are no eggs).
The next day we rolled out the dough and cut it into egg shapes...
Now for the best part....the ICING. Food coloring is bad news for many reasons...there's a lot of controversy surrounding its toxicity, and of course most aren't vegan. There are vegan alternatives available sold in stores and online, but I was determined to find a fruit or vegetable (of any vegan food for that matter) that I could use to color my icing...and with the help of the internet and my professional baker friend, Sarah, I found one! I used raspberries and the icing came out perfect-- it was a beautiful, vibrant shade of pink.
Raspberry Icing Recipe:
1/2c. vegan butter
10oz. bag of frozen raspberries (thawed)
4c. powdered sugar
1-2Tbsp soy/rice/almond milk (if needed to thin it out)
1) Boil raspberries on medium heat until thoroughly mixed into a sauce (about 4-5min).
2) Mix raspberries and butter in large bowl.
3) Add one cup of sugar at a time. Mixing in-between cup additions.
4) Add vanilla, and mix. If the icing is too thick at this point, add one to two tablespoons of soy milk to thin.
Time for decorating the cookies with the raspberry-flavored icing and sprinkles...
Note: You can order organic, vegan sprinkles online.
HOPPY Easter to all!
Marsha from The Institute of Humane Education shares some very valuable tips for raising kind and compassionate children. As parents, it's our job to model and guide the behaviors we wish to see in our kids...and this post will show you how to do that. It will re-energize you....and make you rethink your role as a parent. These seven insightful tips should be on your "to-do-list" everyday!
Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar. - Bradley Miller
Guest blog by Marsha Rakestraw from The Institute for Humane Education (IHE)
When people are asked to list the best qualities of humans, kindness and compassion are always at the top of the list. We're able to be compassionate with others in large part because we can empathize with them. Empathy and connection are key to a healthy, compassionate person (and a healthy, compassionate world), and studies show that we're innately wired to be empathetic; even at a very young age we demonstrate (and show a preference for) empathy.
But in a culture dominated by violence, cruelty, and self-absorption, empathy and compassion must be nurtured; and studies show that young people are becoming less empathetic than in generations past. It is during the early years that the foundation for our children's beliefs and behaviors are formed. As your child's first and most important teacher, parents have an important opportunity to start building pathways to kindness and compassion for people, animals, and the earth, starting when children are very young.
Here are 7 tips for helping nurture compassion in your children:
1. Educate yourself about ways to be compassionate to people, animals, and the earth, so that when your child starts asking questions and exhibiting behaviors that do (or don't) reflect your family's values, you have the knowledge to help. Additionally, as your child gets older s/he will be exposed -- through media, friends, school, and other sources -- to messages and values that may not value compassion. By educating yourself and maintaining mindfulness, you'll be ready to take action to help protect and nourish your child's sense of compassion for others. There are a variety of resources available (including those in IHE's Resource Center).
2. Model a message of compassion. Every day you are modeling a message, and your children are watching and learning from everything you say and do. Are you modeling the message you want to convey? Consider your choices: the food you eat, how you get from place to place, the way you communicate, the products you buy, and all your other daily choices. Do they reflect your values of compassion toward animals, people, and the earth? If your actions don't match your values as much as you'd like, start making small changes, and talk to your children about why you're choosing differently.
3. Read books and tell stories showing compassion and care for others. Stories are a wonderful teaching tool, and of course, regular reading and storytelling build important communication skills. Consider the values and messages in the stories you read to your children, and look for stories that encourage compassion to animals, other people, and the earth. There are numerous resources available, including IHE's Resource Center, and websites like Vegbooks. You can also share stories from your own life about how you learned compassion for others.
4. Build reverence. We tend to protect what we love. If we want our children to connect deeply with others in the world, we need to provide them with regular experiences that nurture and celebrate their love and compassion for animals and the earth. We can engage our children's innate curiosity and invite them to observe ants, get to know a tree, learn about the other beings around them, and explore the beauty and uniqueness that is part of their world.
5. Provide direct experience with others. It's so easy to make judgments and assumptions about others when we don't know them personally. Help nurture a compassionate spirit by providing lots of opportunities to engage with others. Observe animals in their natural habitat at a park; visit a farm animal sanctuary with your child; take your child to events and locations that expose them to people of a variety of backgrounds and experiences; plant a garden; go camping; take a hike (or at least a walk around the neighborhood).
6. Gently guide their choices & help them think critically. Teach your children right away how to engage kindly with animals, other people, and the earth. If you see them involved in unkind behavior (such as hitting your family dog), have an age-appropriate conversation with them to gently guide them to a kinder choice. As children grow, instead of just telling them an answer ("We don't eat eggs because we believe it's important to be kind to animals"), we can ask them open-ended questions that help them think critically about why your family makes the choices it does.
7. Provide them with opportunities to help. Even from an early age, children can be involved in helping others. From accompanying you to take a meal to a sick neighbor, to fundraising for a compassionate cause, to volunteering as a family at an animal shelter, there are numerous opportunities to cultivate generosity and empathy. Just be careful that the experiences are age- appropriate for your child.
To gain additional tools and support for raising a conscientious, compassionate child, sign up for IHE's online course, Raising a Humane Child, which begins April 9. Find out more & register here.
Marsha Rakestraw is the Director of Online Courses, Online Communications & Education Resources for the Institute for Humane Education and is a 2005 graduate of IHE's certificate program. Although she is not a parent herself, Marsha has taught at the PreK-graduate levels and worked for more than 14 years as a children's/young adult librarian. She misses doing family storytimes, but now dedicates her time to working and volunteering as a humane educator. When not trying to make the world a better place, she's hanging with her husband or entertaining her precocious puppy and schizophrenic cat in Portland, Oregon.
If you are raising vegan kids, you will most likely not be coloring real eggs for Easter. No problem, there are many other fun ways that kids can make and decorate “eggs”, so read on for ideas!
As I child, I enjoyed dropping tablets into water-filled mugs and watching the color change. Then I would dip away, and watch as the eggs went from bright white to red, yellow and green. But now, years later, knowing what I know about how millions of hens live and die for their eggs (see below), I can’t ignore the facts. For every dip, I would have visions of miserable, frightened hens crammed into filthy, wire cages unable to even spread one wing. So I would not feel good about it and could not do it in good conscience. It's not an activity that I want my child to participate in. As a family, we try our best to vote with our dollars, and we definitely do not want to vote and in essence, give our stamp of approval for animals being treated in such cruel ways. Some traditions are better left in the past, and that is exactly where I will leave this one.
Luckily, there are many alternatives to coloring real eggs that are just as fun, arguably even more fun! Kids can buy or make wooden, glass, paper mache, clay, paper, playdough and other eggs. They can decorate these eggs with paint, crayons, markers, chalk, fabric, beads, jewels, stickers, yarn, ribbon, foil, and other materials. You can even use natural food dyes such as beets, blueberries, saffron, cranberry juice, red wine, tumeric, raspberries, and anything else you can find in your kitchen pantry that can act as a dye. Better yet, use recycled materials found around your house and outside. This will get kids thinking creatively. You can also bake vegan cookies using an egg cookie cutter, and kids can decorate those. The ideas are endless! So be creative, and have fun. Most of all, if you are going this route, don’t apologize. Be proud that you have chosen not to do an activity (no matter how traditional it is) with your child that involves using a product that came from an animal who suffered greatly and had to pay a very high price for it.
Recently, I visited one of my best friends-- she found this great recipe for clay, which she shaped into eggs, and let dry for a few days. Our kids had a great time painting them! A BIG thank you to Heidi for organizing this special activity!
Here are a few pictures of the girls painting their eggs, followed by the clay recipe so you can make it too! Enjoy!
Elizabeth and Charlotte
1/2 cup cornstarch
1cup boiling water
1) Mix all ingredients in a bowl
2) Boil to a soft ball stage (until thickened). Careful not to burn--reduce heat after boiling point.
3) Knead until dough-like
4) Wrap in wet cloth to keep for a few days
5) Form the shape that you want
6) Let dry
Last year I wrote a guest blog post for Girlie Girl Army about the egg industry and alternatives to coloring easter eggs. Here's an excerpt:More than 95% of all eggs sold in the U.S. (hundreds of millions) come from hens who spend their entire lives crammed into tiny, filthy wire cages. Each hen lives her entire life in a cage with up to 10 other hens-- each hen has a space the size of a notebook piece of paper where they are unable to spread even one wing. This is their whole existence. Thousands of these cages are piled on top of one another, causing feces and urine to fall down onto the hens below. Because of the intense confinement, hens’ beaks (including sensitive cartilage, bone, and tissue) are cut off with a searing-hot blade. Some hens are in so much pain that they are unable to eat afterward, and they eventually die miserably of starvation. Hens frequently suffer from debilitating sores, bruises, and infections, and some get their limbs caught in the wire cages. None receive veterinary care (it’s too costly), and so they succumb to a slow death. Decaying bodies of those who’ve died are left to rot among the living hens in the cage. When hens’ bodies are unable to produce more eggs (the industry calls them “spent”), so the industry does what is called “forced molting”: This is a cruel and extremely inhumane practice in which hens are kept in the dark and given no food for up to 18 days-- this shocks their bodies into another laying cycle. More eggs equal more money. By the time they are sent to slaughter, more than a quarter of all hens suffer from broken bones, and nearly all have osteoporosis because of severe calcium loss. However, these are not the only victims of the egg industry. Male chicks who neither lay eggs nor grow fast or big enough to be considered useful for their meat are considered useless and are therefore discarded. An undercover investigation at the largest hatchery in the U.S. showed innocent, confused male chicks being callously thrown alive into grinding machines, where they are dismembered and crushed, or being put into plastic bags to suffocate to death. The egg industry is a horrible business no matter which way you look at it.
For those of you wondering about free-range and cage-free eggs, those labels are not regulated, so often these are just deceptive marketing claims that companies use to sell their products. For example, “cage-free” can mean that the hens are out of cages but still crammed wing to wing in a filthy, dark warehouse, and “access to outdoors” can mean they have access to a 12-inch-by-12-inch hole in the wall that leads to a dirt pen the size of your living room, but the likelihood that more than a handful of the hundreds of hens in the warehouse will ever get out there for more than 10 minutes is very slim. Unless you are personally going to the small farm down the street to pick up your carton of eggs each week (and you have personally seen the hens and their living conditions), it’s almost guaranteed that the eggs (and all the products containing eggs) you buy in the supermarket and order at restaurants fall into the 95% of eggs obtained from factory-farmed hens. Furthermore, even if you are buying eggs from your neighbor, it still supports the eggs industry and its unethical practices, since all hens likely came from a hatchery, where “useless” male chicks are callously killed.
This is the face of battery-caged hens.
The authors of The Secret Life of Mitch Spinach give us 10 easy suggestions for encouraging kids to eat more fruits and veggies. A lot of good tips. Read and share with other parents!
So, what else can you do when your child refuses to eat anything green and seems to subsist on chicken-fingers and French fries alone?
1) Educate your kids about nutrition.The more they know the easier it will be to guide them into making good choices. Remember how smart kids really are. Don’t sell them short. If they enjoy sports, are interested in beauty, or want more energy, teach them how the foods they eat will help them do what matters to them most.
2) Make food preparation a family affair.The more you involve your kids in the preparation and selection of meals and snacks, the more willing they are to try healthy foods. Even a simple trip to the grocery store to allow them to pick out the fruits and vegetables for the week (each child in the family should get his/her own choice) can make a world of difference. Let older children find recipes online that sound good to them using healthy foods. Allow them to choose how the vegetable of the day is prepared and even help in the preparation.
3) Have a make-your-own smoothie party. Fill bowls with various ingredients, such as berries, mango, spinach, broccoli, flax or chia seeds, and let kids pick what they want. They can even turn the blender on! They love to be in control!
4) Make your own salad. The same trick will work for salads. But don’t just include lettuce. Use seeds, fruit, dried peas, anything goes!
5) Let them dip. Make a dip like hummus or use a healthy store-bought version and watch them eat string beans, carrots, celery, cucumbers, and any other veggie that you cut into strips for dipping.
6) Make veggie and fruit shapes. Thinly slice carrots and cucumbers and use tiny cookie cutters to make shapes. Everything is more fun when it’s in a shape (think silly bands).
7) Make a vegetarian soup at least one night of the week. Pureed soups are great because you can’t see what’s in them (kale is easy to use this way). You’ll be amazed what they’ll eat when it’s been whizzed in the blender or mixed with an immersion blender.
8) Remember that food preferences are formed by one’s environment and taste is a learned phenomenon. In fact, studies show it take 8-15 times before a child accepts a new food. Try a different way of preparing the same food. Once you find a way that your child likes that food, you can branch out and experiment with it because their taste buds have already adjusted to it. Food preferences and tastes are formed early in life, so it is important to introduce your children to a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
9) Don't make excuses. Don't say, "My kid only eats chicken fingers." He/she is not purchasing those chicken fingers with his/her allowance. You make the rules in your house. You purchase the food. Don't buy the junk! Kids are born with survival instincts. They will not starve themselves. True hunger is difficult to deny, and when children are faced only with healthy food options their natural hunger will drive them to eat the healthy foods available, without bribing, coercing or any other schemes. Scientific research shows that children most often take on the eating habits of their parents. Once they realize that there are no other options, they will eat, and then they will begin to change their habits. So will you.
10) Lead by example. If you permit only healthy foods in the house the entire family will learn to eat properly. You can't tell your children to eat broccoli while you are eating French fries. You must show them how to eat by doing it yourself. The entire family needs to eat the same foods at mealtime. The food that is being served is the only option. Include a number of choices so that children maintain some feeling of autonomy in what they eat, but NEVER make a separate kids’ meal or allow them to order off of the kids’ menus at a restaurant. Mealtime is a communal, family time to come together. Let that attitude be reflected in the sharing of the meal. Kids’ menus are rife with terrible food. Stay away from them an order from the sides for your kids or share what you order (the portions are usually too big for one adult anyway).
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Secret Life of Mitch Spinach was written in collaboration with renowned, board-certified family physician, Joel Fuhrman, M.D., who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods.
To get kids on the right track with healthy eating, order the Mitch Spinach book series at www.Mitchspinach.com
BIO: Frustrated by the lack of a healthy, smart, cool role model for their five and six year-old children, Hillary Feerick and Jeff Hillenbrand created the Mitch Spinach children’s book series. They decided to combine their expertise (Jeff holds a BS in Exercise Physiology, and Hillary holds a BA and MA in English) to teach kids about the importance of eating healthy foods and reduce the number of children struggling with weight, chronic colds, ear infections and other nutrition-related problems.