Is it Possible to Stay Vegan or Vegetarian While Homeless?

Hunger is a common symptom of homelessness and poverty, which is why many charitable organizations exist to provide food to those in need. But what happens if you’re homeless and vegan? Is it possible to stay vegan while homeless? Fortunately, some food-share programs are stepping in to provide meatless meals to the homeless.

Vice reports the Burrito Project LA provides vegan — you guessed it — burritos to the surrounding homeless community. Every Thursday night, the group serves donated food in an assembly-line to those in need. The group also drops off burritos to prospective areas with high rates of homelessness in Los Angeles. The cause began ten years ago out of a local vegan bar, which served carnitas made of jackfruit.

Another food share organization, Food Not Bombs, has been helping communities spread vegetarianism for over 30 years. They have chapters all over the world. Their mission aims to feed hungry people alongside protesting war and poverty.

By providing meatless meals, these programs can help the homeless eat healthier and stick to their lifestyle choices. For those wanting to practice a vegan diet while homeless, food-shares directly provide them the food they want. However, these programs are growing in small numbers. Not every community has a food-share program like the Burrito Project or FNB.

There are plenty of limitations to practicing veganism if you don’t have a home. Not having stable transportation or internet connection makes it more difficult to apply for government aid. Move For Hunger reports only 11 percent of those requesting emergency food assistance from the government were homeless. Without aid, being able to afford healthy, vegan food choices can be an obstacle.

That’s why many who choose to be vegan often make sacrifices in order to feed themselves. According to an interview with the Happy Herbivore, Courtney Brown, a homeless woman living in Sioux City, Iowa, discusses the difficulty of accessing healthy, vegan food. Although she will eat meat to feed herself if necessary, she receives a lot of carrots, bananas and peanuts. While her lifestyle has limitations, she tries to prioritize plant-based over animal products.

Another limitation is that more and more cities are passing “feeding-bans,” according to NPR. Feeding bans prevent people from handing out food to the homeless. Local governments enacted this policy to prioritize economic development and tourism since food-share events can attract dozens (if not hundreds) of people. Homelessness nonprofits disagree and criticize this effort. As it is now, not enough people are being fed, but clearly, the legislation doesn’t agree.

What about food banks? Move For Hunger mentions that over 14 million Americans rely on food banks to feed themselves. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to non-perishable food drives for food banks. Not only are they fixated on stocking pantries (which homeless people don’t have), they are also focused on food privileged people don’t want. And because food banks are run by donations, they likely don’t provide vegetarian or vegan-specific food.

Packaged foods, which are commonly provided by food banks, are often linked to larger health programs. In an op-ed for the Canon City Daily Record, Dr. Sandi Ashlock blames gluten and modern food processing for poor health. On the other hand, there are plenty of health benefits to a vegetarian or vegan diet. For example, the Daily Telegraph reports meat-filled diets pose high risks for colorectal cancer. The homeless can benefit long-term for vegan/vegetarian food shares, rather than solely feeding themselves for a meal.

Organizations like the Burrito Project LA and Food Not Bombs not only feed the homeless, but they also provide a healthier alternative to processed foods. Again, food banks are filled with canned food and other packaged products. Conversely, vegan/vegetarian food-shares offer healthy food homeless people might not otherwise receive and that’s why we need more of them. It provides an opportunity for the homeless to practice an animal-free diet as well.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

95 comments

Jim V
Jim Ven5 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S5 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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John B
John B8 months ago

Thanks Danielle for sharing the info and video.

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Philippa Powers
Philippa Powers11 months ago

Thanks.

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Hometuition T.
Hometuition Tabout a year ago

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Elaine W.
Past Member about a year ago

It is very difficult.

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Jen S.
Jen Sabout a year ago

And finally, no one should ever be homeless while tax money is augmenting the profits of Big Oil and the likes of Monsanto.

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Jen S.
Jen Sabout a year ago

Had I not read this, remaining either vegetarian or vegan would have seemed impossible to me...until I saw the word burrito. I am a native of Arizona who was sling genuine Mexican as a toddler if not an infant. Mexican cuisine offers many outstanding veggie main dishes and accoutrements. As someone who consumes bean burritos happily, with my handmade salsa, Pico and quac, And many other meatless Mexican dishes, I applaud this inventive and compassionate gesture...as well as the burritos. Well done!

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Darlene Buckingham
Darlene Buckinghamabout a year ago

Generally poor people cannot afford meat and would perhaps only get hot dogs, over processed and food without nutrition. Food banks usually do not have grass fed meat and steak. Burritos at least have needed nutrients. Being homeless is social injustice. There is no need for anyone to be without housing or food.

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