Oakland's first Veg Week, a celebration of meatless eating

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By Megan Molteni, crossposted from Oakland North

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau grew up in a world of mixed messages about animals. Dogs and cats were for loving; pigs and cows were for eating. This disparity, which she calls a “schizophrenic” attitude toward animals, began to gnaw at her more and more as she became an adult. Her philosophical turmoil turned to action when Patrick-Goudreau became a vegan at the age of 19. In the 12 years since then, she has taken her message public as a nationally renowned vegan chef, writer and educator.

Patrick-Goudreau, an Oakland native, is one of a handful of speakers at next week’s inaugural Oakland Veg Week—a weeklong celebration of vegetarianism and veganism throughout the city. A number of events geared toward community education about meatless lifestyle choices will be taking place from April 15-21. Local restaurants will also be participating by offering special vegetarian and vegan options and prix fixe tasting menus.

Kristie Middleton is one of five Oakland locals organizing Veg Week. A vegan for 14 years, Middleton says that while the city has plenty of plant-based diet options available at restaurants and grocery stores, she never felt like there was a strong movement behind it locally. “We felt like this would be a good way to rectify that,” she said. “We want to be a resource for the community.”

Oakland Veg Week kicks off Sunday with a vegan cooking demonstration at the Whole Foods Market and continues throughout the week with speakers from public health groups and animal welfare organizations as well as the Oakland premiere of Vegucated, a feature-length documentary that follows three meat and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. Last year the film had its world premier at the Toronto International Film Festival where it won best documentary. Co-producer Demetrius Bagley said the film has made people stop and think about whether or not they could go vegan themselves. “People are encouraged and see it as a possibility,” he said. “It’s not this impassable hurdle.”

Oakland Veg Week is encouraging people to reduce meat consumption or go vegetarian or vegan for a week with an online pledge. Everyone who signs up to take the challenge will be sent recipes and meal ideas to facilitate going vegetarian or vegan for the week, or even just trying a meatless Monday. Public officials like Mayor Jean Quan, Councilwoman Nancy Nadel and Representative Barbara Lee have all pledged to spend one week eating vegetarian.

Middleton said the Oakland Unified School District has also signed on to help raise awareness about vegetarianism in schools throughout the city. “We weren’t sure how far we’d be able to reach into the community,” said Middleton. “But it really seems that people from all walks of life are interested in joining us in making Oakland a more humane, healthy and sustainable city.”

Oakland Veg Week will wrap up with a celebration at the Lake Merritt Sailboat House where Patrick-Goudreau will be giving a presentation on common myths about veganism. “We live in a culture that values convenience over compassion or health,” she said. “We can do a better job reaching out to our communities, to give them the information so they can make more informed food choices that will have a hugely positive impact on their lives.”

For more information about Oakland Veg Week or to sign up for any of the week’s events visit http://oaklandveg.com/.

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Ali manages the website and coordinates the online communications of CEH. She works with the communications and development staff to create messaging strategies and public education content for CEH’s supporters and online audience. A Bay Area native, Ali attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where she received a B.A. in Sociology and Cultural Studies. This allowed her to live abroad in Argentina, where she studied Latin American history and learned valuable Spanish language skills. Ali is thrilled to be part of an organization that advocates for healthy communities so effectively.