VegMichigan board member teaches easy vegan cooking

Volunteer Spotlight

Q&A with Vera Hampton
Meet Vera: Vera Hampton is a nutrition counselor and VegMichigan board member. Her interest in nutrition and passion for cooking started at a young age in her grandmother’s kitchen. Vegetarian since college and vegan for 12 years, Vera volunteers her time through VegMichigan teaching monthly cooking classes, tabling at various events and coordinating cooking demos for the organization’s annual VegFest. Vera lives in metro Detroit with her husband, Jeff Hampton, also a VegMichigan board member.

What led you to veganism, and why do you maintain it?

I started as a vegetarian in college when I took an anatomy class and was assigned a cat who came pickled in formaldehyde. The turning point in this assignment was the dissection portion, moving me to the realization that the cat’s anatomy was almost identical to that of humans. From that point forward, I have not consumed flesh. Becoming vegan was a process. At the time, I was not aware of the cruelty associated with the dairy and egg industries. I became enlightened 12 years ago and have been vegan ever since. Now, the thought of putting animal products into my mouth is simply revolting.

You are very active with VegMichigan. How did you become involved with the organization?

I was introduced to VegMichigan about seven years ago when I came to a VegMichigan-sponsored dinner. That evolved into tabling at various events, to volunteering at VegFest (VegMichigan’s annual vegan tastefest and expo), to finally becoming a board member. Being vegetarian since college and later transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, it was a natural progression for me to become active in an organization like VegMichigan, and then, a natural progression to become involved in a leadership role.

How do you volunteer your time to promote veganism and farm animal protection?

Through VegMichigan, I have been teaching vegan cooking classes at Whole Foods and Better Health Store locations for about four years. I enjoy showing people that vegan food can not only be healthy, but taste fabulous as well. I also touch on the moral aspect of eating animals and the cruelties involved in factory farming. In my classes, my target audience are omnivores. I have had the pleasure of moving many people to a more plant-based lifestyle.

I also table for VegMichigan at various events, such as green fairs. At events like these, people from all backgrounds come to our table. You never know what may be the trigger for someone to consider switching to a vegan diet or incorporating some vegan dishes into their eating.

Lastly, I am the cooking demo coordinator for VegFest, and this year, debuted my own presentation for the event called “Vegan Cooking Made Easy.” VegFest requires a lot of time. We start planning for the next festival almost as soon as the last one is over.

Why is volunteer work important?

In general, I feel it’s commendable to endeavor to transfer our particular passions to others, to make our passions their passions. That is why we volunteer.

What is your advice to others who want to be veg activists?

Whenever I’m asked this question, I encourage the person to educate themselves on all three aspects of a plant-based lifestyle: health, environment and animal compassion. Then, focus on the areas that move them most and network with groups dedicated to those areas. For example, if it’s the environment that moves you, get involved with Greenpeace and Sierra Club. Members of these groups may not be vegan, but because of their focused interest, they may be open to a change. Also, for those of us who are already vegan, we should try to exercise some patience with those who are not there yet. After all, if we look back and remember, it was a process for most of us.