V For Veg: Raising awareness: An idea that sticks

Humane League's Lydia Chaudhry (right) assists as Pure Fare's Andrew Claxon mounts one of the league's "Vegan Options Inside" stickers.
Humane League's Lydia Chaudhry (right) assists as Pure Fare's Andrew Claxon mounts one of the league's "Vegan Options Inside" stickers. (VANCE LEHMKUHL)
Posted: October 04, 2012

WERE YOU AWARE that October is Vegetarian Awareness Month?

No? OK, we just have to try harder in the 27 days we have left.

Fortunately, there's a campaign now picking up steam that makes the job easier. Volunteers with the Humane League of Philadelphia are connecting with veg-friendly eateries to tout their plant-based and cruelty-free offerings.

They've come up with a small but eye-catching sticker the businesses can affix to an outside door or window that says "Vegan Options Inside."

I caught up with Lydia Chaudhry, director of media and volunteers for the Humane League, as she was installing one at Pure Fare at 119 S. 21st St.

"Since our mission is to reduce animal suffering as much as possible and save as many animal lives as possible, getting the message out to people about the vegan options in restaurants and grocery stores was a natural," she said. So far, the league has distributed about 250 stickers around here, plus a few hundred more in the Baltimore, Boston and New York areas.

This outreach effort makes sense as more places avoid the "vegan veto" by including a vegan-specific meal or two. A joint that has a vegan burger now will have a more visible advantage over the one that shrugs, "you can always have a salad."

And apparently, unless it's one heck of a salad, a business needs something more enticing on the menu to qualify. "Any restaurant, bar, café or whatever that has at least one decent vegan entrée or reasonable vegan meal option is sufficient to get a sticker," Chaudhry said.

"It's not just full-service restaurants," she added, citing "plenty of coffee bars and bakeries that have lots of nondairy milks available and/or vegan pastry options. We want to include as many businesses as possible that can meet the criteria."

Chaudhry said another goal is to help venues notice and capitalize on "the increasing demand for veg food" among both vegetarian/vegan types and the public.

Pictures win prizes

The Human League initiative dovetails well with our "V for Veg" campaign, launched last New Year's Eve, to gather photos of spots around town that advertise vegetarian or vegan items. So far our galleries - at philly.com/vsigns and philly.com/veggiesigns - have more than 50 photos, but there are lots more Philly spots to be documented.

That's why we're ramping up that effort with our Vegetarian Awareness Month photo contest (rules at philly.com/vegphotos). Now through Oct 31, send in your photos of places with "vegetarian" or "vegan" signs visible from the outside. Whoever submits photos of the most places wins our grand prize: dinner for two at the superhot veggie spot HipCityVeg! For runners-up, we have the Forks Over Knives cookbook (from the movie about the plan that turned President Clinton vegan) and others to give away.

And if you find a worthy vegetarian or vegan item at an eatery that isn't touting it, contact the Humane League at 646-719-0070. You can get a sticker for the venue, then take a shot once it's up.

If nothing else, we'll live up to the nickname of the month, boosting veg awareness. But maybe - just maybe - someday soon we'll find a sticker on the door of every food spot in Philly!

Vance Lehmkuhl is a cartoonist, writer, musician and 12-year vegan. "V for Veg" chronicles the growing trend of plant-based eating in and around Philadelphia. Send your veg tips to VforVeg@phillynews.com and follow @V4Veg on Twitter.

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