1. There are many definitions of veganism out there. What is your definition of veganism? Moreover, what is the difference between being a vegetarian and being a vegan?
Veganism may have started out as a simple dietary change and movement away from something I was no longer comfortable supporting. But since then it's become a lot more, Veganism is now one of my defining characteristics, my lifestyle, a movement, and most of all it's a community. I've met a lot of people whom I consider family, and in reality our only ties are veganism, cooking and a little spot of Internet. Veganism for me is compassion and making simple life choices to make your world a better place.
The difference between vegetarian and vegan can be a lot of things, for various people but strictly speaking it's an abstinence from all harm (dairy eggs honey etc).
2. What are the benefits to being a vegan? Is it a lifestyle choice, or is it restricted solely to what one eats?
Lifestyle choice all the way. The immediate benefits for me personally was a vast improvement of health. It cleared up my skin, brought me down to a healthy weight, helped me overcome issues I had with food and provided me the ground work for overcoming my eating issues. Since going vegan, everything has gotten a little brighter. I went from being a sickly kid, missing weeks of school/work due to common illness to rarely ever getting sick. Taking charge in the kitchen and having something to be passionate about and work towards. It helped me focus and brought back my love of food, cooking and baking.
3. What are some common misconceptions about vegans or veganism?
Mainly that vegan food is simple, boring or bland. That vegans don't eat and are unhealthy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Also that there are no vegan guys, they exist (they just have to spend some time in hiding to avoid being mauled by ladies/boys)
4. University students don't usually have the time or financial means to cook proper, nutritious meals everyday. What would you recommend to students in this situation?
Cooking tasty and healthy doesn't have to break the bank! Some of the cheapest and healthiest things are vegan. The Cheap Vegan is a zine that changed my life, it's amazing rational guide for eating well and living thrifty. The best thing I did in university was a) move out of the dorms and get a real kitchen b) buy a crock pot/slow cooker or pressure cooker and get to it! There are all kinds of cheap living and cooking advice out there. The best thing is to know what you like and shop accordingly. Buy bulk grains, legumes and beans. Shop on discount days and get an easy simplistic cookbook full of recipes you like. If you enjoy your food, you'll enjoy eating and making it too. Plus crock pots are great for cooking beans during school etc and coming home to chili, soup or other amazing dishes.
Don't give up! Plan ahead! and find some recipes/favourites to love!
5. The University of Victoria is currently ranked in second place by PETA2's Most Vegetarian-Friendly University Campus Ranking in Canada. How can students promote more awareness about vegetarianism and, more specifically, veganism?
One thing that worked well for us was hosting monthly vegan potlucks on campus, try talking to your women/gender centre to see about a partnership and being able to use their space. Advertise in local free papers or through posters. We also did monthly cooking classes which introduced students to cheap, easy meals they could make that tasted great and were vegan! cupcakes 101, fancy eatings on cheap livings and basic intro to cooking courses had great success.
We also did some postering, leafleting on campus and hosted film screenings. They are pretty easy and quick to get going.
6. This is the fourth year for the Vegan Month of Food. What are some of the biggest changes you've noticed since the event began?
Publicity! Each year Mofo is getting bigger and badder! This year the blog list alone is outstanding and press is really starting to notice our little endeavour. I've witnessed a lot of blogs and bloggers growing in both their design, writing, photo and recipe skills. Each year people are getting better, learning to cook better and improving in some way. It's amazing to watch people learn as we go along. Some of the ideas and creativity is just unbelievable.
7. Lastly, what are the main goals of Vegan Month of Food?
To raise awareness about veganism and the love of food. Showing people through good food and food geekery what veganism looks, taste and smells like. Feeding people and food are one of the greatest forms of activism we have. Once people see how awesome veganism and vegan food can be, it makes the politics and their implications just a little bit less scary. And shines some warm fuzzies on veganism.