The Power of Community: Why Vegans Need a Social Network to Thrive

Do you remember being the new kid in school? Your parents just plucked you up and whisked you away from your old school and your old friends. Plunked down in a new place, you were thrown into the mix with a bunch of new kids. You’ll make new friends, your parents told you, and you did.

Being vegan can sometimes feel as isolating as being that new kid in a strange school. You’ve got no one with similar concerns and needs to talk to, no one to bounce questions and ideas around with. Unlike that newly arrived little kid, though, you don’t have a ready made group of compatriots to get to know. You have no community right in front of you, ready to enfold you in its arms and make you feel welcome.

To establish a sense of community, vegans and vegetarians need to find their own kind.† That’s especially true for those who are brand new to a plant-based lifestyle. Finding veggie friends means making an effort. I know what that’s like.

Having just moved to northeast Florida, I did something last week that I’ve never done before. I used a website called MeetUp to find and join up with the local community of vegans and vegetarians. I found a group called the Northeast Florida Vegetarian Society and RSVP’d for one of their periodic dinner gatherings at a local vegan-friendly restaurant.

I’m really glad I did that. The event had terrific vegan food and gave me the opportunity to meet and get to know other veggie people living near me. It was great fun. I’ll be going to more group events as they pop up.

Had I not sought out some veggie community interaction like this, I’d sill be the new vegan kid in town, left to my own devices to figure out where all the cool vegan-friendly stuff can be found.

Things You Can Learn From Kindred Spirits

Maybe you’re wondering what you’d get out of reaching out to others like this. Here are just a few things:

  • Moral support and reinforcement of the ideals that made you go veg in the first place
  • A feeling of community – you won’t have to be the only veg kid in the crowd anymore
  • Good veg-friendly restaurants and stores near you
  • Opportunities for local activism
  • Identifying the best vegan pizza/Chinese food/bakery/etc. in your area

There’s a lot to be said for having the opportunity to relax and talk with a bunch of people who share your ideals. It makes a refreshing change from the folks at the office who like to prod you for your hippie dippy veggie ways. Even good-natured ribbing gets old after a while. It’s a relief to be among others who share that challenge and can discuss how they deal with it.

How to Hook Up with Fellow Veggie Folk

Convinced? There are a number of ways to find other vegans and vegetarians near you. Here are just a few of the best:

1. Social Apps and Websites

potluck

Yes, use the Internet. MeetUp, in particular, is a wonderful way to locate established groups of likeminded people who might already have regular get togethers that you can join. The bonus here is that in addition to meeting a lot of other local vegans, you’ll be introduced to nearby restaurants that offer veg-friendly menus. That’s a win-win.

Look around Facebook as well. Many vegans and vegetarians have formed special interest Facebook groups and pages aimed at pulling together people from a local area to exchange online information and discuss issues. Often these groups host periodic pot lucks or restaurant gatherings. Join in — it’s fun.

2. VegFests, Farmers Markets and Other Food Events

festival

Nearly everyone has access to a farmers market nowadays. You’re bound to meet veggie people if you frequent such markets and interact with the patrons. The same goes for any food-centric event that includes offerings from local veg-friendly food vendors. Go, explore, talk to the people — especially the ones you see buying the vegan nachos. It works.

Across the country every year, major metro areas host vegetarian festivals. Just a few of the biggest include:

You’ll meet throngs of potential new friends at an event like this. If it’s close to home, they might even be friends you can begin hanging with on a regular basis.

3. Animal Activism Events

Ever consider attending or volunteering at an animal activism event? There are many to choose from and you could do some good while networking with fellow vegans. Go to one of Farm Sanctuary’s Thanksgiving Celebration for the Turkeys, attend an animal rights conference, or volunteer to man a table for your favorite animal group at a festival or concert.

4. Join Groups, Attend Events That Are Likely to Draw Vegans

yoga

Try yoga or a meditation class. Lots of yogis and meditators are also vegan. Even if they’re not, they know others at the studio who are. Ask around and a friendly soul will always point you in the right direction.

Go to a concert starring a vegan or vegetarian musician. Moby, Paul McCartney and Joan Jett are vegan or vegetarian performers and animal activists. There are many more. Most vegan performers love to talk about it, so it’s a good bet a bunch of their fans are veggie as well. Mingle and find a few.

If there’s a vegetarian food stand, that’s your ground zero. Just be friendly, chat up some folks there, and see where it leads.

5. Attend a Vegan/Vegetarian Cooking Class

class

This one is a no brainer. If people are attending a class or course like this, they’re either vegan/vegetarian, they’re considering dropping animal products from their diets, or they are cooking for someone else who’s veggie. A cooking class is guaranteed to help you find others who might just become your new veggie friends.

6. Hang Around a Vegan Store

farmers

Don’t be a pest or a loiterer, but if you’ve got a cool little vegan store somewhere near you, become a regular customer. Talk to people. Ask questions. People just like you are shopping there everyday. You get the idea. This even works at your local health food store, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.

7. Date a Veg

love

If you’re looking for veggie romance, you can find that online too. Try VeggieDate.com or VeggieConnection.com. Of course, no matter what dating option you try, exercise a bit of caution when meeting anyone you don’t know. That rule will never change.

It’s really not hard to begin gathering a group of friends who share your dedication to animals and vegetarian/vegan principles. The hardest part, especially for wallflowers, is plucking up the nerve to get out there and just do it.

Ignore those butterflies in your tummy and go. You’ll be grateful for the moral support and the influx of interesting ideas and resources that your new buddies can give you.

It’s hard to be vegan or vegetarian all by yourself. You don’t have to do it alone. Do you have more suggestions?† Let us know in the comment section below.

Photo credit (all images): Thinkstock

37 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Elizabeth Z.
Elizabeth Z3 years ago

I found joining a vegan meetup a lot of fun. It's been great being able to get to know others who live the same lifestyle and do so for the same reasons and to learn about new vegan restaurants. I haven't had any luck on the dating sites though.

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Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa3 years ago

Thank you

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Mary Wendt
Mary Wendt3 years ago

Don't forget about the powerful and supportive Get Waisted communities developing all over the country! 64 in the US so far!

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Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson3 years ago

I am ALMOST VEGAN. Since I live in an ASSISTED LIVING COMMUNITY it is almost impossible to be completely animal free for exactly the reason you mentioned----- the lack of acceptance that being "different" causes. We have our own kitchens and COULD eat whatever we choose BUT communal meals are served 3x a day in the dining room. It is possible to ask, in the dining room, for vegetables ONLY but then your table mates feel sorry for you. Some wheedle, others tease and yet others apparently feel threatened as though YOU are infringing on their right to eat meat. FORTUNATELY I have an excellent support group . Most Seventh-Day Adventists are vegetarian (Loma Linda University etc. ) Their health teaching includes vegetarian cooking classes--tasting is encouraged! They serve a lovely vegetarian meal following their Saturday services. My doctor is also a church leader who was born and raised both Adventist and vegan. I did end up with turkey gravy on my mashed potatoes and squash today( Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone ) but having the lowest cholesterol in the room goes a ways in explanation. AND, I often hear myself raving about how GOOD these VEGETABLES are! In the summer, I bring home "too many" fresh veggies from the garden market and beg my neighbors to take a few. I give tips on how I cook them. Hang in there ,everyone. Where there's a will there's a way!!

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Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper3 years ago

ty

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Rosemary H.
Rosemary H3 years ago

This *Evil* computer has shut itself down *Twice* while I've been struggling to post a response.

Very briefly I was trying to say that the workplace, in fact anywhere where you haven't chosen your company, is where you can experience a lot of harassment to copy the other folk there. I got stick for having a motorbike instead of a car. I can imagine the harassment if you dare to be vegan. Too many folk can't handle individuality. They behave as though "everyone has Got To Be Identical!"

Hence the need for support groups like this. (Yes, I met fellow bikers outside work!)

On the other hand, you've got Care2. Even though I consume very small amounts of meat, and that hasn't come from factory farms, it can sometimes be the omnivores like me who need support!

Now, I wonder if the monster I'm typing on will let me click the red button successfully?

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Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Thanks for the post.

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Steve A.
Steve A3 years ago

Does a social network replaces the benefit of meat products?

Nothing replaces the goodness of bacon!

Leave the dark side and join us Vogons!

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