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Promoting Healthy School Food with the Power of the Plant-Based Plate

By Jodi Gruhn, Wholesome Minnesota Director

August 2023

Wholesome Minnesota Director, Jodi Gruhn with co-presenter Eva Breiland (left)

I attended the Minnesota School Food Association Conference (MSNA) for the first time in 2022. During the conference I noted many opportunities to educate school food professionals about the power of the plant-based plate in school food. After attending in 2022, I created a personal and professional goal that I would earn a speaking slot for the MSNA Conference 2023. I achieved this goal on August 8th

Wholesome Minnesota’s presentation, “The Power of the Plant-Based Plate”, was built upon leveraging and creating partnerships and relationships.  Let me explain…

Knowing that I wanted to immediately capture the attention of our attendees, like any good vegan, I started with food. 

A few weeks before the conference I connected with Bobbi Jo Lamar Brunson of Sweet Troo Vi who after a short email exchange agreed we were mission aligned. Sweet Troo Vi donates a portion of their proceeds to benefit local causes with the greatest need throughout the Twin Cities with emphasis on youth programs and aid. They generously donated samples of their AMAZING cookies (seriously if you haven’t had one, your life will not be complete until you do). They were the perfect partner. I heard over and over from the audience- “this is vegan?” Just the point I was trying to make.

It gets better. I did not present alone. In fact, I presented with the most perfect co-presenter I could have ever asked for.  This year I partnered with Eva Breiland, a student from Breck School who partnered with Wholesome Minnesota for her Advanced Mathematics Research Project, a final project for her senior year. 

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CAA Interns Shanya and Muna learn valuable skills and make a difference!

August 28, 2023

Shanya Glover (left) and Muna Mohamed

We had the pleasure of having Shanya Glover and Muna Mohamed join us as interns this summer. They were part of the Step Up program, which supports young people in gaining job skills by matching them with local nonprofits and businesses.

Community Organizer Tamuno Imbu set up the internship and supervised the interns. This summer, Shanya and Muna rocked at outreach events, spreading the word about Twin Cities Veg Fest. In addition, they educated other youth about connections between diet, human health disparities, and the treatment of farmed animals. They also played a big role in transferring our blog posts as we get ready for some exciting changes to our website, and doing data entry that will prepare us to meet with legislators around our factory farming moratorium petition in early 2024.

Let’s learn more about them!

Shanya (left) and Muna pitched in to help with lots of projects including collating leaflets for the Twin Cities Vegan Chef Challenge

Shanya Glover, who will be a junior at Patrick Henry High School this year, did an outstanding job during her time with us. Before joining our team, she had worked at McDonald’s for a few months. Shanya loves school and enjoys being helpful. She states that her favorite thing she did for us was “going to different restaurants around Minneapolis and trying vegan and plant based foods and meeting new people and learning how animals are getting treated.” Shanya’s goal is to turn her life around and eat healthier foods. She is grateful for the opportunity to learn all the valuable things she did at CAA.

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Get to know Martha Eichlersmith, CAA Volunteer

August 28, 2023

Martha and Wednesday, a resident at Charlie’s Acres, a sanctuary in California

Martha Eichlersmith moved back to the Twin Cities recently and attended the CAA’s Annual Banquet with her vegan friends. She had a lot of fun! Plus, she was impressed by CAA and was inspired to get involved. While there, she spoke with Laura Matanah, CAA’s Executive Director, about volunteering.

As a result of that conversation, Martha signed up for her first-ever volunteer experience. She decided to work with the Twin Cities Chef Challenge committee because it sounded like a great way to promote plant-based eating. 

Her role was to help recruit restaurants to participate in the August Challenge. She got 19 signed up! And now, she is promoting the Challenge via social media posts. Martha is having great success in getting individuals to try Challenge dishes and rate them.

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Whole Foods | September 2023 | Vegan Recipe Club

Continue your vegan cooking journey with the September installment of CAA’s Vegan Recipe Club. The cookbook selection for September is Mistress Ginger Cooks by Mistress Ginger. We will get together online on September 19 from 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm to discuss several recipes from this helpful and fun cookbook.

Mistress Ginger describes her book this way: “I’ve been cooking up a special treat for you: this cookbook! I’ve been getting busy in the kitchen (with help from my entourage of stud muffins, of course), fashioning vegan recipes with all of you in mind. Whether you’re a culinary virgin, a burly trucker or a pink-haired diva, you’ll find something to titillate your taste buds and spin your windmills. Let me entertain you with sordid stories from my checkered past and then show you how to infuse your snazzle-frazzle life with some whole-foods, plant-based cuisine. Come, cook with me!”

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Salads | August 2023 | Vegan Recipe Club

This August we used recipes from Salad Samurai (2014)  by Terry Hope Romero. Even tho. the date is past you can still download the recipes we used and try them on your own. This cookbook contains recipes for main dish salads loaded with whole-food, high-protein, and seasonal ingredients.  

It’s the perfect time to up your salad game. The recipes in this book show you how to rescue salads from their bland, boring reputation and “side” status. The secret is a hearty base, a zesty dressing, and loads of seriously tasty whole food, plant-based toppings. 

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Let’s Beat (the Drum for) Breast Cancer Rally at Twin Cities Veg Fest!

August 24, 2023

Join us for the Let’s Beat Breast Cancer Rally at Twin Cities Veg Fest on September 17th! This special gathering will take place from noon to 1 pm on Harriet Island in St. Paul. We invite everyone to come support October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

At the rally, you’ll hear local experts, and breast cancer survivors share inspiring stories. But that’s not all – we have a unique treat for you! Percussionists from local bands “beat the drum” for breast cancer prevention. Get ready to enjoy some amazing music while raising your voice for this important cause.

During the rally, you’ll hear about the four lifestyle steps that can reduce the risk of breast cancer and recurrence. Food for Life instructors Jodi Gruhn, Jill Erickson, and Joel Erickson will be sharing their knowledge. These passionate advocates for plant-based nutrition educate about the power of healthy eating. In addition, we are honored to have Kiley Krocak share her inspiring story of surviving breast cancer!

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Sounds of Twin Cities Veg Fest: Artists of the Cultural Star Stage

August 24, 2023

We are thrilled to have with us three fantastic performers at the Cultural Star Stage at Twin Cities Veg Fest: Mary Bue, Happy Lance Brunious and the Red Wine Trio with Elyse Jones. Queen Frye will be the EmCee. The festival will be September 17 at Harriet Island Park in St. Paul. Join us for the great sounds and fun! Enjoy the tasty festival food while grooving along to the tunes.

These award winning groups offer something for everyone with stylings from vegan songwriter to rapper and jazz vocalist, to modern jazz trio.

Mary Bue is a songwriter, international retreat guide, music and yoga teacher, and vegan of 10+ years based out of Minneapolis, often “roaming this beautiful world.” You may remember her from when she performed at one of our ThanksLiving celebration with her moving song “Veal.”

Named Best Songwriter of 2020 by City Pages, her music touches upon archetypal themes of the human condition: love, loss, triumph, dreams,  and the natural world. A longtime student of yoga and psychology, Mary weaves sacred subject matter into her songs, seeking of deeper levels of consciousness, and deep concern for the environment mixed into her sometimes crass, real-world hue. Her latest album The World is Your Lover was released in 2020 and garnered rave reviews from around the globe.  Mary is working on her 9th studio album The Wildness of Living and Dying to be released in early 2024.  She’ll be joined at Twin Cities Veg Fest by longtime collaborators Shannon Frid-Rubin (Cloud Cult) and Steve Price (The Suburbs).

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Reflecting on the Animal and Vegan Advocacy Summit: Insights and Inspiration from CAA Attendees

August 16, 2023

Compassionate Action for Animals (CAA) recently had the opportunity to participate in the Animal and Vegan Advocacy Summit, which took place from July 26 to July 29. The event brought together CAA staff, board members, and volunteers, offering them a chance to connect with like-minded individuals and gain valuable knowledge in the field of animal advocacy. We deeply appreciate the movement donors who enabled volunteers to attend! 

Read on to read a summary of resources each person discovered, what they learned, and what they found interesting or valuable about the summit.

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Pedaling for a Cause: Twin Cities Veg Fest Fundraiser Breaks Records!

August 16, 2023

On August 12, Compassionate Action For Animals held its most successful fundraiser ever for the Twin Cities Veg Fest. The Twin Cities first Plant-based Bike Crawl was the brainchild of the CAA Board of Directors. It all started with the brilliant minds of the CAA Board of Directors. They came up with this fantastic idea, and with the help of a dedicated team of board members and volunteers, they made it happen. And boy, was it a blast! Best yet, the ride raised a total of $2,305 after expenses!

Equally important, the Crawl drew in a lot of interested folks—many of them new to CAA and veganism. Over fifty riders had a fun day enjoying the perfect weather, touring beautiful south Minneapolis, and sampling a variety of vegan goodies. It was also a chance to meet like-minded folks in CAA’s vibrant community. A couple of dedicated doggie companions even joined in the fun!

The bike crawl covered a total of 18 miles starting at Powderhorn Park. From there, the riders pedaled their way to Reverie Cafe + Bar, where they enjoyed mouthwatering jackfruit carnitas tacos. Then, they made a pit stop at Herbie Butcher, where they indulged in a cup of one of their tasty sides topped with vegan fried chicken. Finally, they wrapped up their ride at Vegan East, where they treated themselves to a special commemorative chocolate cupcake. Along the route, they also enjoyed homemade vegan snacks lovingly prepared and served by the awesome CAA volunteers. Talk about a feast on wheels!

The Plant-based Bike Crawl was so incredibly successful and fun that there’s a good chance it might happen again next year. So, keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for your chance to join in on this epic adventure next time.

Meet Sara Beth Olson, CAA’s new Graphic Design, Social Media and Marketing Coordinator

August 16, 2023

Recently, CAA announced the opening of a new full time position within the organization — the Graphic Design, Social Media, and Marketing Coordinator. This position combines roles from two previous positions along with a new marketing role. All made possible by generous donations and grants.  Now, we are pleased to introduce Sara Beth Olson who accepted our offer and is just starting her new role! 

Sara comes to us with 5+ years of experience in content marketing for digital agencies, working with a wide variety of end clients on blogs, websites, social media, ebooks, and more. Her time in this industry has given her the knowledge base to help organizations succeed in their marketing goals and drive results. 

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