Lauren Adams

For the past couple of months, I have been writing about the environmental and health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets and sharing easy recipes with you all. However, while a vegan diet is an extremely healthy way of eating, it is not something that is financially accessible to everyone. 

It is often theorized that if everyone switched to a plant-based diet, we could reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere significantly and basically end global climate change. However, I wholeheartedly believe that there is an inherent classism in encouraging everyone to adopt a vegan diet.

Living a vegan lifestyle requires a major time and financial investment. It also requires having easy access to affordable produce. Yes, there are ways to cut down on the time commitment such as preparing meals ahead of time. But without access to affordable produce, people do not have the ability to prepare healthy, vegan meals for their families or themselves.

Take for example the situation of the University Commons Walmart – before the Walmart and Publix were built, that area was a food desert. A food desert is an area (usually urban) where it is difficult to access fresh, healthy foods. While there may not be a lack of food necessarily, the food that is available is not healthy; most of the time it is also not vegan.

This Walmart gave both members of the community and students who do not have access to transportation access to affordable groceries. However, this Walmart had an extremely small produce section, and you would be lucky to even find one good bunch of bananas.

Now that the Walmart is closed, students and other community members are left without healthy produce and other affordable groceries. The only other option for people is the Publix next door, but the same product at Publix is much more expensive that it was at Walmart. This leaves people with the option of either paying the more expensive price or traveling much farther to get to another grocery store – one that is maybe not accessible by public transportation.

This is just a local example of a problem that is happening all around the country. There are countless urban areas all around the United States in which there may be plenty of food available to members of the community, but not enough of it is healthy or nourishing, and it is almost always not vegan.

Maybe it is true that if we all adopted a plant-based diet that we really would save the world; however, that assumes that everyone has the ability to do so. It is unfair to assume that everyone can be vegan, and it is even more so to shame them when they cannot. The classism behind encouraging or pressuring everyone to try to go completely vegan – while not always intentional – is always present.

Lauren Adams is a junior studying Spanish and Political Science with a minor in German. She can be reached at ladams30@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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