By Natalie MAIER
Those who visited the La Crescenta Library on Saturday afternoon were greeted by a savory aroma emanating from the upstairs meeting room. A free vegetarian cooking demonstration took place from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. that was hosted by Green Menu. About 30 community members stirred impatiently in their seats, keen on tasting the vegetarian sushi, corn and black bean salad and broccoli sir fry tempeh.
Green Menu, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching people about healthy lifestyles and eating habits based on vegetarian or vegan diets, has been hosting cooking demonstrations at local libraries in Southern California for about two years.
“[Green Menu’s purpose] is to help people understand that it’s not difficult to be a vegetarian,” said volunteer Grace Carpenter. “We want to build the bridge between restaurants and people. A lot of people don’t know how to cook or eat vegetarian. We want them to feel comfortable. It also helps save money and it’s good for the earth.”
In Southern California, Green Menu has partnered with 350 to 400 restaurants that offer vegetarian or vegan meals and it extends deals to Green Menu members. Membership is $25.
The grand opening of Green Menu’s organization center in Alhambra took place on Friday. The center offers free lectures and cooking classes people can attend to learn more about plant-based lifestyles.
When his doctor informed him that he was borderline diabetic, Grace’s husband and fellow volunteer Chad Carpenter began to slowly change his eating habits. At first, he gave up sugar. From there he eliminated all meat products. Since abstaining from meat 11 years ago, all his symptoms of diabetes have disappeared and he now enjoys an increase in energy.
“[At Green Menu] we show that [being vegetarian] is not only easy to do, but it really tastes great,” Chad said. “You don’t have to sacrifice anything. People correlate being vegetarian with a diet. It’s not a diet. Diets suck. Everyone who has ever been on a diet knows that they suck. The whole thing about a diet is that you know that you are going to have to sacrifice. But when you actually become vegetarian, most people find that they don’t have to sacrifice at all. You are also feeling great so it’s an incredible incentive.”
Chad has done extensive research about the benefits of living a vegetarian or vegan lifestyles and has formed strong arguments regarding his views.
“I think that almost all of the major issues that we have – economically, socially, environmentally and health wise – all connect to food,” he said. “I think these all can be resolved if people convert to a vegetarian/vegan diet.”
Over 70% of all grains grown in the U.S. and 50% of all drinkable water on the planet goes to feeding animals which we then kill for food, Chad added.
An article from “The Vegetarian Times” states, “Today, there are more than 17 billion livestock in the world; that’s about triple the number of people. Raising these animals requires huge amounts of water, most of it used to irrigate the grains and hay fed to the animals.”
According to veganoutreach.org, an almost purely vegetarian diet can feed approximately 6.26 billion people, in contrast to a diet of 25% of meat, which only feeds 3.16 billion.
These facts are some of the issues Green Menu highlights, in hopes that people will make a change in their diet. Volunteers hope to spread awareness not only on environmental issues but also health benefits.
“Our offices provide information so people can make educated choices,” said Chad. “The whole purpose of what we do is to provide information. If we can provide people with information that empowers them to take control of their lives, then we’ve done a huge service to the community, the world, and the environment.”
For more information about Green Menu or becoming a member, visit greenmenu.org.