New Vegan Outreach Strategies for COVID-19 and Beyond
Success stories from our grantees
Posted on April 12, 2021 by Estella Ramirez
How has your activism changed during the last year? What surprised you? As vegan activists adjusted to the unexpected limitations brought on by COVID-19, many of you discovered new approaches that were more effective than you anticipated — approaches that you can continue to use moving forward.
VegFund grantees have adapted to COVID-19 in exemplary ways, and we’ve collected a few of their stories. From vegan food assistance to online academic programs, vegfests, and film screenings, these activists are sharing what they’ve learned, and we hope these lessons will benefit your future outreach efforts.
Vegan food relief programs
As the world shut down most in-person operations in March of 2020, many individuals lost their livelihoods. Some activists stepped up to offer vegan meals in their community. These plant-based aid programs show that food assistance can be good for animals, the environment, and human health.
When the COVID-19 crisis began, twelve members of Montevideo Health Save joined the effort of Ollas Populares, which offers hot meals to people in various spots in the city. Over the course of providing vegan meals in Ciudad Vieja for several months, they demonstrated that vegan food is accessible to everyone.
How they did it:
Each affordable vegan meal was packed with nutrition, consisting of a legume, a whole grain, vegetables, and a fruit.
A VegFund grant helped cover: ingredients, gas for meal preparation, compostable containers, cutlery, and transportation. The grant also covered costs to create 50 vegan recipe books, which organizers offered to people interested in preparing plant-based meals at home. Grantee Fernando Möller shares some of their experiences:
“First, we saw the terrible social and economic impacts the pandemic had on the people and their families. We did our best to focus on helping as much as we could with this complex situation, mainly trying to assess the food shortages. Furthermore, it gave us the opportunity to start working with other social organizations (not vegan), which highly enriched our daily work and helped us broaden our social perspective. We worked together and achieved better results when cooking, delivering food, creating vegan video recipes, and dealing with logistics and organization.”
In total, Montevideo Health Save served 5,040 vegan meals and 1,120 liters of oat milk. Every Saturday, they fed about 200 people for 50 to 60 USD. That’s less than a dollar per nutrition-packed meal! In fact, each meal costs 16 pesos, compared to an average of 37 pesos for a non-vegan meal at the Ollas Populares. Oat milk costs 9 pesos compared to 36 pesos for powdered cow’s milk. The other organizations are taking note!
“The oat milk was of special interest for the other social organizations, mainly because it is really easy to make and its cost is very low. As a consequence, we gave workshops to explain how to cook low-cost vegan food (oat milk, cookies, and cakes) and to talk about the nutritional and cost benefits.”
In this four-minute video, Montevideo Health Save organizers talk about their motivations, approach, and growth.
Plant-based academic programs can teach school administrators, students, and their families principles of justice, goodwill, and humanity toward all life, including the impact of their food choices. When schools transitioned to online learning, one program found that there are long-term advantages to having an online option.
Educated Choices Program
The Educated Choices Program (ECP) has reached more than 1.7 million students and other community members. This academic program for middle school, high school, and college students offers five educational and interactive presentations that encourage participation and critical thinking. ECP uses age-appropriate videos, science-based information, activities, and open-ended questions to challenge students to identify widespread assumptions about human health, the environment, the use of animals, and, ultimately, their food choices.
The ECP presentations support state academic standards for subjects including science, social studies, health and physical education, and others. Presentation topics include Healthful Eating, The Environment and Modern Agriculture, Modern Animal Agriculture, The Ethics of Eating, and Cell-Based/Plant-Based Technologies – The Future of Meat and Dairy. Field management staff also works daily to reach out to schools throughout the US and Canada and schedule presentations.
How they did it:
To replace in-person presentations during COVID, ECP launched an online component using video presentations and lesson plans with interactive activities suited to distance-learning classrooms. A VegFund grant helped cover video content creation and professional narration. The ECP website offers 2-minute video previews, along with a form to download the presentations.
The virtual program reached 6,255 educators in 1,500 schools, and more than 297,000 students have engaged with the curriculum during the 2020–2021 school year so far. Feedback from both teachers and students has been positive!
“Thank you for citing all of your sources; my students felt that the information presented was relevant and supported by factual information and not just opinions.”
—High School Physical/Environmental/Life Sciences Teacher, North Reading, Massachusetts
“This was the most convincing presentation on plant-based eating I’ve ever seen. I am seriously contemplating giving up meat.”
—Middle School Student, Bradenton, Florida
“After this video, I am starting to think of a way better world that is plant-based, and I want it to happen NOW!!”
—Middle School Student, Osprey, Florida
The program’s Living Lab Project surveys the students and teachers who view the presentations. Over time, this evaluation data measures actual changes they make to their eating habits.
Respondents who’ve watched an ECP presentation are significantly more likely to report intentions to reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal products (6% intend to eliminate and 70% intend to reduce as compared to the control group in which 4% intend to eliminate and 34% intend to reduce consumption of animal products).
The surveys also show that:
More than 50% made significant changes (reducing or eliminating animal products) to their diet.
94.4% of respondents view the ECP educators as very knowledgeable on the subject matter.
79% felt that the information was extremely important.
Respondents shared the information they learned with an average of 15 other people.
Besides keeping staff and participants safe during the pandemic, the video presentation approach brought the cost-per-student rate down, making this online model an ideal long-term strategy even after in-person classes resume. The online program also has the potential to reach students in areas where it isn’t cost-effective to employ an in-person staff member.
VegfestUK has an 18-year history of providing central meeting places for vegans in the UK, including some of the biggest vegan gatherings in Europe. The organization promotes the benefits of veganism and plant-based diets to people who are not yet vegan but open to it. VegfestUK also engages speakers on a diverse range of subjects and facilitates conversations around sensitive topics affecting the vegan community.
In 2020, as the world shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, VegfestUK lost their venue, their income, and part of their team. They quickly figured out how to continue promoting veganism and supporting the vegan community through online events.
How they did it:
VegfestUK Summerfest Online launched in August of 2020 on a platform designed for career fairs. The technology proved not entirely adaptive to the needs of a vegfest and therefore not worth the expense. However, the livestreams and talks were undeniably a success. Presentations continue to be available on the VegfestUK website and YouTube channel.
The lesson learned here was that they could avoid technical difficulties and save some money by broadcasting future events as livestreams directly from their well-established social media platforms. The organizers have continued to hold events nearly every month. Their presentations cover cooking demos, talks on eating for optimal health, ethical veganism, Black vegan men in the movement, how to stay vegan after Veganuary, support for vegan businesses, and music entertainment by vegan artists. The livestreams are available for every event.
Organizers used a variety of marketing approaches to engage their audience, including maintaining a presence in Facebook groups and other social media platforms, email bulletins, word-of-mouth, and cross-promotion through their event speakers, the organizations involved, exhibitors, followers, friends of friends, vegan celebrity activists, and more. Resources used include videos, blog posts, news, announcements, special offers, and, of course, livestreams.
Hosting regular online events, each covering different topics, helps sustain long-term relationships. Organizers also actively support organizations that offer monthly challenges and offer year-round resources, such as Veganuary, The Vegan Approach, Plant Based Health Professionals UK, and many others.
A VegFund grant helped cover the costs for content curation, presenters, Zoom and webhosting, and Facebook sponsored posts.
“At a time when all live events had been shelved, we were able to achieve some excellent results in terms of panels, presentations, debates, discussions, and general promotion of all aspects of the vegan lifestyle and plant-based way of life, with around 300 online presentations and resources freely available in all.“
Tim Barford, Manager of VegfestUK
To succeed, organizers learned:
How (and when) to use social media effectively to improve engagement and viewership
Which platforms work best for them and why
How to make it easier for visitors to find what they need on the website
To seek income elsewhere so that events continue to be free and accessible
How to stay true to what’s relevant to the vegan community and contribute to that discourse in a balanced and informative way
To incorporate translation to make resources inclusive of a more global online audience
To collaborate with others more than ever to provide ideas and expertise online
Because the events were streamed on various platforms across several months, it’s not simple to calculate the number of “attendees.” Organizers put their most conservative estimate at 10,000 people. However, engagement on social media suggests that tens of thousands more were reached. The events engaged anywhere from 11 to 48 vendors. So far, this model has been most successful in amassing vegan resources in the form of talks, panel discussions, and livestreams that are available to their audience indefinitely.
“Live events are fabulous — but the online format allowed us to reach people who may be excluded from live events for variety of reasons, including accessibility, and that was a very strong positive for our online events.”
Tim Barford, Manager of VegfestUK
Virtual film screenings
The Last Pig Virtual Screening to benefit Pig Sanctuaries
The event included a newly-created video featuring all four sanctuaries, the full film, and a live Q&A panel discussion with Alison and the sanctuary directors. Viewers learned about the sentience of pigs, the work of sanctuaries, and the consequences of our food choices. The organizers encouraged guests to donate, buy merchandise, and become involved in their initiatives. And, everyone was invited to pledge to leave pigs off their plates for The Last Pig Pledge!
How they did it:
The event was publicized through e-blasts from each sanctuary and The Last Pig, social media saturation, websites, podcasts, and word-of-mouth. Allison used what she’s learned from past in-person screenings and researched online screening options to select a professional streaming site and host her first virtual event.
Allison Argo, director/producer of The Last Pig
Kathy Stevens, founder/director of Catskill Animal Sanctuary
Afton Hughes, director of Pig Preserve
Tracey Stabile/Dan Illescas, directors of Central Texas Pig Rescue
Erin Brinkley-Burgardt, founder/director of Hog Haven
A VegFund grant helped cover streaming platform fees and video editing for a special video on sanctuaries.
$11,000 raised for animal sanctuaries
600 households screened The Last Pig
286 responded to a survey, which will inform future activities
120 people attended the discussion panel
50% of the audience was non-vegan
59 people signed The Last Pig Pledge committing to give up pig products
7% signed the pledge as a result of watching the film
More strategies to support your journey
We’re impressed with the creative ways you’ve continued your vegan activism under such difficult circumstances. And we’re delighted to discover that your new approaches are so successful that they will inform your future activities as the world begins to open up again. The journey you’ve taken will inspire you (and us!) for years to come. And we’d love to continue to support your activism.