Vegan buddy

Vegan buddy program matches experienced vegans with vegan newbies

Vegan Dave Shishkoff chats with Ailsa Lenk in the organic produce section of Thrifty Foods on Fairfield Road. The two are taking part in Vegan Buddies

Vegan Dave Shishkoff chats with Ailsa Lenk in the organic produce section of Thrifty Foods on Fairfield Road. The two are taking part in Vegan Buddies

As shoppers bustle about grocery store aisles, Ailsa Lenk stops from time to time to examine the ingredient labels of food she’s considering for her dinner plate.

She’s better now at knowing if the ingredient comes from an animal, but when she’s unsure, the Saanich resident will grab her cellphone and text her query to experienced vegan Dave Shishkoff.

“You can go off on the Internet, and research for yourself and spend hours doing it – and I fully support doing that too,” Lenk said. “But it’s also really nice to be able to ask somebody.”

She recently has been able to go all the way with veganism – and stick with it – since she was partnered with her vegan mentor through a free new Vegan Buddy program that quietly launched in Greater Victoria last fall.

For Lenk, the program has taken the guesswork out of following a lifestyle that doesn’t include animal products – from food and vitamins to toiletries and animal-friendly clothing and footwear, as well as products that aren’t tested on animals.

Shishkoff has been pairing screened vegan mentors with aspiring vegan buddies through his work with the Victoria chapter of animal rights group Friends of Animals. About 11 mentors and 12 buddies have so far signed up for the program.

“If you’re isolated and you don’t know many vegan people, (veganism) can be a challenge for sure,” said Shishkoff, who serves as Lenk’s mentor.

Their partnership proved instrumental in helping her smoothly transition from a vegetarian diet to a vegan lifestyle about two months ago.

“When you’re doing something that’s not the norm, I think it’s really helpful to have a mentor,” said Lenk. “I really needed someone who knew their stuff because I tend to like to know the reasons I’m doing things.”

At first she wanted to know what she could have for breakfast in place of eggs.

“Breakfast was one of my concerns because being in carpentry, which is physically demanding, I didn’t want to be starving by nine o’clock in the morning,” she noted.

Knowing how and where to start is a hurdle the Vegan Buddy program addresses for people who say they want better health, to have less of an ecological footprint on the planet and to be mindful of all living creatures – from farm animals to honey bees.

Those reasons prompted Michelle Dagg to become a vegan last summer, but until she met her vegan mentor Jenn Marr last fall, she struggled through the unfamiliar process.

With Marr’s guidance, Dagg said she began eating better and her energy was restored.

“I felt more confident in the selection of foods I was choosing,” said Dagg, the kind of support and guidance her own mentor would have appreciated during her transition three years before.

“When I went vegan, my family wasn’t very supportive at first,” said Marr.

In addition to health and nutrition, the Friends of Animals Vegan Buddy program can advise newcomers on animal-free products, from soap and safety footwear to candles.

“It’s an effort to be more in tune to everything around you, and what impact you’re having on other lives around you,” said Shishkoff, who believes he too would have benefitted from an experienced vegan mentor when he first embraced the lifestyle 20 years ago.

“I am always empowered by (mentoring) and I certainly enjoy the process when I see people make shifts in their lives,” he said.

Without Shoshkoff’s guidance, Lenk said she wouldn’t have eased into veganism like she did, and navigate the grocery store shelves with such confidence.

She can even envision herself as a future mentor one day who is just a text message away “to help you know where to go to shop so you’re not frustrated all the time trying stores where you can’t find what you want,” Lenk said knowingly.

To sign up for the Vegan Buddy program, visit www.thevictoriavegan.com.

emccracken@vicnews.com

 

Just Posted

St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria bishop apologizes for church’s role in residential schools

Bishop Gary Gordon voices commitment to healing and reconciliation

Oak Bay Rotary Club member Lorna Curtis takes over as District Governor of Rotary District 5020 on July 1. (Courtesy Lorna Curtis)
Former Oak Bay recreation director goes international with Rotary

Lorna Curtis takes over as district governor on July 1

Police are asking opponents of logging near Port Renfrew not to involve their children following additional arrests Saturday. (Black Press Media File)
Police arrest eight protesters including two minors near Port Renfrew Saturday

RCMP ask parents not to involve their children in Fairy Creek logging protests

Future grads at Oak Bay High will have greater scholarship opportunities available through the Oak Bay Rotary Club. (Black Press Media file photo)
Private donor quadruples donations to Oak Bay Rotary scholarship funds

The club has awarded more than $25,000 to Oak Bay High students

Elaine Kirwin in her Expedia Cruises office talks about the future of travel. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Sidney travel agency charts course through pandemic

Owner of Expedia Cruises in Sidney expects smooth sailing ahead once travel restrictions lift

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read