We never planned on being the only vegan family in town.
When I got pregnant, we left ultra-vegan-friendly Seattle and bought a house on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. We live just outside a small town, where people mostly have radical, kind politics. We love the community feel of farmers’ markets, cider festivals, and the annual pet parade, but we don’t know any other vegan families here.
In Seattle, we lived in a magical, vegan bubble. Even after getting married, my partner and I lived with a bunch of housemates in an all-vegan (one bathroom, sketchy but affordable) house, a couple blocks away from the vegan pizza restaurant we owned (Pizza Pi Vegan Pizzeria), as well as the nonprofit grocery I volunteered at (Vegan Haven), the Thai restaurant where we had our wedding party (Araya’s Place), and our favorite diner (Wayward Vegan Café). It was in that bubble that we pictured starting a family together, in that bubble that we got pregnant. But, then, so we could be home with our little one for their early years, we sold the restaurant and moved 2 hours away (by car, plus a ferry), where we didn’t know anyone.
So how do you deal, when you’re the only vegan family in town?
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1. Love your omnivorous friends.
I quickly made friends by attending birth class, prenatal yoga, and then, after our baby was born, library times and weekly breastfeeding tea. Knowing each other during these fragile, intense years has bonded us for life. This community has been so important to my family’s wellbeing that I never once thought about shunning any of them for not being vegan. In the city, there were so many people around that I really did form my community from almost 100% vegans. I’m not saying, either way, right or wrong, but it is interesting to think that I would’ve missed out on all these dear friendships if I had held out for vegan friends. Of course, as the only vegan family in town, holding out would have meant isolation.
My experience with these omnivorous friends is that they have respected our veganism, whether by having vegan food for us at birthday parties, trying out vegan muffin recipes for snack time at our playschool co-op, or most recently, choosing a vegan cookbook for their monthly cookbook club (where everyone makes a dish from the same cookbook and you all get together to feast) so I can join in too.
How did I get to this point, of them respecting my veganism? I think partly it’s choosing friends who are kind. Partly it’s trying not to appear judgmental, to communicate veganism as my personal choice, even though I do wish the whole world was vegan.
One important piece, though, is catering to others’ food sensitivities. Many of these friends, especially during nursing, cut out foods—dairy, tree nuts, gluten, nightshades—and I make sure to gift them vegan food that respects their needs. These gifts respected the difficult situation they’re in of needing to change their diet, while also exposing them to yummy vegan food. In my experience, if you cater to everyone else’s food sensitivities and needs, they’ll cater to yours.
2. Join the closest vegan families group you can find.
If you’re the only vegan family in town, you might need to look a bit further away. Search online to find the closest vegan families group. Sure, we have to travel two hours away to attend events with the Seattle Vegan Families group, but these faraway friends are like long-distance cousins, friends you love even though you don’t see them very often.
So far, we’ve attended the annual Seattle Vegan Families camping trips (imagine 20 families around a campfire, each of which brought four bags of vegan marshmallows, just in case!), as well as a vegan families Easter egg hunt (plastic eggs full of toys and all-vegan candy) and a Christmas cookie exchange party (with a sugar-cookie decorating station!) My 3-year-old reenacts these experiences at home, and proudly tells her grandparents, “I went to an Easter egg hunt, and all the kids there were vegan like me!” And we parents reminisce online about the vegan biker gang our then-2-year-olds formed at the camping trip, with their little balance bikes.
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3. Join Raise Vegan’s online community!
If you’re the only vegan family in town, it might feel like you’re the only one in the world. But you’re not! There are so many of us, and thank goodness we have the Raise Vegan worldwide community with its private Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting Facebook group. Join us, for your own mental health, for food ideas, parenting ideas, venting, and to know that you’re not alone.
4. Normalize veganism at home, and let your kid assume it’s a vegan world.
Yes, be honest when they ask outright, but at first, your kid doesn’t need to know that none of their friends are vegan. If veganism is normalized at home, it won’t occur to them for some time that they’re the outlier. When they do start realizing this, it’s helpful to point out the faraway vegan friends and also to emphasize that everyone’s on their journey, and more and more people are going vegan every day.