A recap of lauren Ornelas’s food justice talk

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A recap of lauren Ornelas’s food justice talk

lauren Ornelas speaking in Vancouverlauren Ornelas, founder and director of the Food Empowerment Project, was here in Vancouver on Saturday to present a talk on food justice.

The Food Empowerment Project is part of the vanguard of an exciting movement looking beyond single issues. This is their mission statement:

The Food Empowerment Project seeks to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices. We encourage healthy food choices that reflect a more compassionate society by spotlighting the abuse of animals on farms, the depletion of natural resources, unfair working conditions for produce workers, and the unavailability of healthy foods in low-income areas.


By making informed choices, we can prevent injustices against animals, people, and the environment. We also work to discourage negligent corporations from pushing unhealthy foods into low-income areas and empower people to make healthier choices by growing their own fruits and vegetables. In all of our work, the Food Empowerment Project seeks specifically to empower those with the fewest resources.

The Food Empowerment Project website

lauren has been an activist for 24 years. She started working on animal rights issues when she was in high school, and has started numerous groups over the years. She’s probably most famous for being the person who inspired John Mackey of Whole Foods to go vegan. But even beyond that she’s had a huge influence on the animal rights movement through her campaigns and her willingness to help other groups become more effective in their campaigns.

Nearly 100 people filled the room at the Vancouver Public Library to hear lauren’s talk. She spoke about her history in the animal rights movement and how it has all lead her to found an organization bringing human and animal rights together.

After briefly speaking about animal rights issues and her investigations of factory farms, she talked about the conditions for workers on fruit and vegetable farms. Many of them are migrant workers, often tricked into working for less than promised, raped, abused, and otherwise exploited. As vegans, we have a great responsibility to speak out against the cruelty involved in growing the food that we eat – the apples, the oranges, the sugar, the lettuce, the corn.


And, of course, chocolate. The Food Empowerment Project has done a great deal of research into chocolate production – and they’ve got a list of the chocolates that they can recommend as being free from slavery. Yes, there is a great deal of slavery involved in chocolate.

The challenges of eating ethically are huge. It can be overwhelming to think about all of the issues involved, so it’s up to each one of us to determine where we can make a difference. Being vegan is a great start, and then choosing to avoid supporting companies like Coca-Cola that have a history of exploiting and even murdering workers and union organizers.

We each sit down with food 2, 3, or even more times a day, and each one of those times is an opportunity to vote for a truly ethical food system, one that is wholly non-exploitive and honestly sustainable.

The Food Empowerment Project has also done a survey of their area to map out access to healthy foods. They’ve found that low-income areas have significantly less access to fruits, vegetables, and meat and dairy alternatives.

You can learn more about the Food Empowerment Project on their website, their blog, Facebook, and even Twitter.

If you are interested in working on these sorts of issues locally here in BC, we are working on getting some of the materials from the Food Empowerment Project that they used in their chocolate research and their food access survey. We’d like to see many groups get involved in these issues here, and hope that you can too!

If you are interested, please contact us.



May 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I forgot to mention that we did record the talk and as soon as we get the video edited we’ll make it available here.


May 23, 2011 at 7:18 pm

I was incredibly inspired by Lauren’s talk, and would love to be involved. My mind hasn’t stopped racing about how to do something like the work of the Food Empowerment Project here. I would also like to see if Earthsave could get behind something like this, so would love to explore the possibility of a joint effort, if you’re interested (and supposing we can rally the resources).


May 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Fantastic post, Glenn! It was such an inspiring and educational talk. I’m so glad we came.

Please let me know when you get the materials about researching chocolate. We have a lot of brands here that I’d certainly like to question as to the origin of their product!

The human cost of chocolate | Liberation BC blog

November 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm

[…] Food Empowerment Project, to speak at the Vancouver Public Library.  (You can read about her visit here.)  F.E.P. focuses on all forms of food injustice, and because the consumption of animal products […]

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