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Denton Vegetarian Society looks to expand community’s vegan knowledge through new leadership

Denton Vegetarian Society looks to expand community’s vegan knowledge through new leadership

Courtesy | Denton Vegetarian/an Society Facebook

Denton Vegetarian Society looks to expand community’s vegan knowledge through new leadership
June 10
14:48 2016

Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer

@kayleighbywater

For TWU nutrition junior Tara Hughes, there are certain phrases she hears daily: “Isn’t that actually an unhealthy lifestyle?” “What do you even eat?” “What’s the point?” and “I could never give up cheese.”

Hughes, who has followed a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle since she was 12 years old, always has the perfect responses for these questions. And for her, the answers are quite simple: “Actually, it’s a lot better for your body than eating meat is,” “It’s a part of a much, much bigger picture” and “Cheese is honestly terrible for your body.”

Through her philosophies and informative facts, Hughes runs the Denton Vegetarian Society, which aims to foster the community’s knowledge about not only veganism, but what it means to live a healthier lifestyle.

“I’m super compassionate about veganism because I think it’s really important for people to understand it instead of getting offended by it,” Hughes said. “This group helps push my passion even more.”

Starting fresh

The group, which started as a UNT campus organization, has slowly branched into Denton. While they started as proponents for people to at least adopt a vegetarian lifestyle on campus and educated the public on animal suffering, it has become more focused on promoting veganism, a diet without meat or dairy products.

DVS’ main way of reaching out to the community is through potlucks where anyone – vegan or not – can bring vegan or vegetarian food and congregate to try new things and make new friends.

DVS

Denton Vegetarian/an Society | Courtesy DVS Facebook

“We are not trying to force anything down anyone’s throat,” Hughes said. “We just want people to know there is a lot more to veganism than they may think.”

Although Hughes runs DVS, she has only been in Texas for a short amount of time. Hughes spontaneously moved to Texas from Virginia in January after a Christmas visit to see her family. Hughes, who not only saw Denton as a fit to her personality, felt it was a great way to discover new ventures. She did not, however, expect for it to lead her to running a group.

That all changed in February when Hughes went to the Valentine’s Day-themed potluck with friends. There she met Christie Norris, who took the group under her wing a few years earlier. Norris, who would be moving soon, left Hughes in charge of DVS after meeting her to discover what she was all about.

“She seemed passionate about veganism and offered to help,” Norris said. “We had mutual friends, so although I’d just met her, I knew she’d fit the role so well. I want to see this group live on and grow for many years, and she can do that.”

Hughes, who had barely even started her classes at TWU, was now in charge of running an organization that had been a part of Denton for many years.

Because of this, Hughes has big plans for the future of the group.

“I’m ready to get the ball really rolling,” Hughes said. “There have been some hiccups already, but I know the group and Denton’s vegan population can only go up from here.”

Domino effect

The biggest event for DVS is their monthly potluck get-togethers. The event has a different theme every month and anyone, vegan or not, can bring in vegetarian and vegan dishes to share with fellow Dentonites.

Since summer just began, Hughes dubbed this potluck the “Potluck Picnic.” Guests would bring salads, quinoa dishes and vegan desserts. Nevertheless, guests must be careful to ensure that all food is vegetarian or vegan so it does not compromise any one’s lifestyle choices.

“It’s important to respect everyone’s health choices, and I think the most special thing about these potlucks is that we make sure everyone can eat everything that is brought,” Hughes said. “And it’s great because it’s like everyone already understands that. Even those who aren’t necessarily vegetarian respect that.”

This buffet-style gathering provides vegans with recipes for new meals and those who eat meat the chance to try something they may not have tried before.

For political science and economics junior Jesse Anyalebechi, going to the potluck as someone who does eat meat did not make him feel left out in the least bit. Rather, he saw it as an opportunity to expand his understanding of various lifestyles and get familiar with another group in Denton.

“I was invited by my vegan friend,” Anyalebechi said. “The potlucks are a great way for people to learn more about vegan culture in a friendly, no-pressure situation. Dentonites can come and share their vegan recipes, and you also have this opportunity to meet some great people.”

Although Hughes wants to provide a safe place for vegans to meet others with similar lifestyle choices, she said her ultimate goal with the group is to reach out to those who question her lifestyle choices. She also wants to bring more people in, such as Anyalebechi, who may just want to know more about the lifestyle.

UNT graduate Rena Farlow works with Hughes to organize events and getting more people to come. Farlow was with DVS early in her college career and said that over the past few years, what used to be a group full of older people has quickly garnered more college kids to learn about veganism.

Farlow said she feels that even though the population of their group may be growing, they need to get their mission out.

“Our culture is centered around animal products,” Farlow said. “Look at fast food places or holidays like Thanksgiving. Sometimes people are just afraid or don’t want to take that challenge, and although they definitely have a right to their opinion, they need to know the hard facts about what’s best for them.”

Although it will take time, Hughes said she is ready to see what the future holds for DVS. The group’s next potluck in July will be called “Fruitluck,” allowing for attendees to bring in the favorite fruit dishes, fruit desserts and more.

She does not want to stop there, however. While she wants to get DVS involved in the community market, selling tofu scrambles and vegan muffins, she also wants to provide a comfort for vegetarians, vegans and even meat eaters in D-FW.

“I want to provide that source of information and food for anyone and everyone,” Hughes said. “I don’t want people to ever think we are going to judge them for the questions they ask or turn them away if they show up to the potluck without a dish in hand. I’m looking to make ‘vegan’ a positive word in everyone’s eyes.”

Featured Image: Denton Vegetarian/an Society | Courtesy DVS Facebook

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