Thank you for getting active with Animal Outlook! We really appreciate you spending your time and energy helping animals. This guide explains why food sampling is such an impactful activity and will help you get started on creating and running your own event! We’re also available to guide you through your event and provide tips and materials. Simply get message us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is food sampling?
Food sampling events are a fun, positive way to engage with the public about vegan eating! These events basically consist of preparing and serving free samples of plant-based versions of people’s favorite foods. This can generally be done on public property as long as you aren’t blocking foot traffic, but be sure to check your local laws before planning an event. You can also set up in advance at schools, festivals, and other events!
Before an Event:
1. Find an appropriate venue
- Food sampling events should be in a place that will receive a lot of foot traffic, like the quad of a college, a downtown promenade, or a festival.
- The best audience for these events are people who aren’t already vegan, but may be open to trying vegan food.
- Be sure to check your local ordinances and/or call your town, city, or county to find out if a permit or license is needed if hosting your event on public property. Different localities have different rules surrounding giveaways of free food and you should always check local laws before hosting your event.
- Plan as far ahead as possible in order to apply for and receive a VegFund grant (3-4 weeks), receive Animal Outlook literature, and promote your event!
2. Apply for a VegFund grant
- VegFund offers financial assistance to people all over the world who are spreading the joys of compassionate, sustainable vegan eating. Applying for a grant for your food sampling event is easier than it sounds!
- Figure out food you want to sample. We recommend food that’s easy to serve that you can prepare before an event (rather than during). Cooked food should only be served for about 2 hours after preparation, and cold food should be kept in a cooler before serving. We highly recommend using pre-packaged food when possible to reduce the risk of foreign contaminants and simplify the permitting process.
- Consider advertising your food giveaway to the public 1-2 weeks in advance via social media (including a Facebook event), flyers, online calendars, and any other community message boards and relevant groups.
- On the day before the event, please review any instructions you’ve received from a venue representative or local authorities (if applicable).
- Make sure you have all the materials you’ll need. These may include:
- Vegan food samples
- A table and tablecloth
- Food serving equipment (gloves, trays, warming racks, coolers, etc.)
- Signage (including those required by VegFund if receiving a grant)
- A signup sheet (if not using an electronic one) for your local group and Animal Outlook’s volunteer network
- Personal items (such as sunscreen, snacks, water, etc.)
During an Event:
1. Attracting participants
- One of our main goals at any event is to reach as many people as possible. The more people we can interact with, the more we can educate and inspire to take action! Have signs offering free food and approach people with your samples.
- If someone flat out says “No,” tell them to “Have a nice day!” and move on to offering food to others.
- You don’t have to tell people right away that the food is plant-based, but always make sure to mention it at some point during your interaction. Most of the time, people are shocked at how similar vegan foods taste to the products they’re replacing!
2. Talking points
- Most people will just be happy to get free food, but some may want to talk to you about animal rights issues. Here are some general conversation tactics you can use!
- Meet people where they are. Most of us weren’t born vegan, so we should be able to relate to pre-vegans. Listening to people is a great way to start the conversation. It can give you ideas of what to address, and it will show that you’re interested in having a genuine conversation.
- We want people to know that going vegan is the most effective thing we can do to fight animal cruelty. Our language should always reflect this, so even if the conversation leads to the option of starting with smaller steps (such as Meatless Mondays or eating vegan meals once a day), we can frame those as steps towards a larger goal. “That’s a great start! The more you try new foods, the more you’ll get used to them. Then you can introduce more and more vegan days!”
- Keep the conversation positive! You want to feel out where they’re at and what’s keeping them from going vegan, not shame them or argue. Virtually everyone agrees the treatment of the animals is horrible, but there’s still something keeping them from going vegan. Is it a health concern? Enjoying what they eat? Knowing what to eat? Focus on their individual reasons, invite questions, and also ask them questions.
- Be prepared for people to ask about “cage-free,” “free-range,” “organic,” and “humane” animal products.
- Remind them that according to the USDA, the vast majority of all animal products come from factory farms.
- “Humane” labels are created by the industry to put consumers’ minds at ease because they know many people are willing to pay more for what they believe are more humane conditions. But these products are far from cruelty-free. On most “cage-free” farms, hens are crowded by the thousands in dark sheds and are deprived of natural conditions and behaviors. “Cage-free” and “free-range” animals are often subjected to the same mutilations as animals on factory farms, such as tail docking, debeaking, and castration without painkillers. Babies are still taken from their mothers, and male chicks in the egg industry are killed at birth because they aren’t considered useful.
- “Organic” doesn’t have meaningful animal treatment requirements either. The USDA requires that animals are given organic feed and no growth hormones or antibiotics, and the regulations have unclear space and outdoor access requirements for most animals. Animal welfare rules for organic-certified producers are so imprecise that animals are often raised in conditions that are indistinguishable from those on factory farms. Ultimately, these animals end up at the same slaughterhouses as all other animals raised for food.
- We are not here to shame or yell at people or to promote ourselves as “examples of perfection.” It is important to remember that most of us were not born vegan. Answer questions and concerns and speak from your own experiences, but the best thing you can do is ask questions to get people talking.
- To this end, please do not use comparisons to the Holocaust, slavery, or sexual violence when discussing the issues of animal agriculture. We find that it distracts people from our mission of raising awareness about how farmed animals are treated and instead turns their attention towards the activist and their method of discussion.
- Invite the person to take action. One of the best things you can do is to ask them if trying vegan food has made them consider reducing their consumption of animal products. If they say “Yes,” ask them where they can start.
- What if people ask about legislative measures? You can answer that “We on empowering people to take action right now, rather than waiting for rules and regulations that depend on a complex, lengthy process.”
- What if I don’t know the answer? It’s OK! Most likely, anything they bring up will be a simple question that you’ve answered before, but if someone asks something you don’t know the answer to, it is totally fine to be honest and say, “You know, that’s a great question. I’m not sure of the answer, but let’s find out together!” Then you can look up their question on your phone.
- Time Management: Do your best to manage your time and feel free to end conversations if you feel they aren’t productive. When you feel the conversation has reached its natural end, you can ask if they have any other questions or concerns.
- Finishing a Conversation: After chatting, hand them a leaflet with more info. It’s helpful to open the leaflet, and point to the TryVeg.com site if they want any more information.
- The most important part is to have fun while doing this! Joke around with people, smile, laugh, wave, dance, etc. Events can seem overwhelming at times, but just remember you are doing great work and the more fun we have, the more likely people will want to check out what we’re doing.
3. General tips
- Be responsible. Volunteering at Animal Outlook events under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol is not permitted.
- Be inclusive. Animal Outlook works to build a world where everyone is welcome and feels safe, and we can start by making our events like that. Be respectful and welcoming of people in their diversity of gender, orientation, race, national origin, body types, abilities, etc.
- Be respectful. If you receive directions from event, campus, or other personnel, or from law enforcement, we ask that you comply respectfully and without argument. Do not resist directions, argue, or escalate under any circumstances.
- Take pictures and videos of your event! It’s required for VegFund reimbursement, and Animal Outlook would love to highlight your event on our social media accounts!
- Be safe. You must follow all the guidelines in VegFund’s food safety policy.
After an Event:
- Share your photos and videos on your own or your local group’s socials to spread the reach of your action with an online audience.
- Send both Animal Outlook and VegFund your signup sheets and any pictures and videos you took. We can’t wait to hear how your outreach went! You can reach us at: email@example.com