Colin Anderson took a break from cooking another community meal last week to sit near a garden and talk about food.
He was asked what would prompt a self-identified atheist/Buddhist to go into the kitchen of St. Paul’s Hamline United Methodist Church and cook a vegan dinner for up to 200 people. Or to start a vegan food stand at another nearby church?
It’s about improving food security and empowering the community by introducing locally sourced and sustainably raised foods to neighborhoods with limited food options, he said. Through his Eureka Compass Vegan Food initiative, the Midway resident also hopes to launch a vegan grocery store.
“For us, it’s about community. It’s about nutrition, whether it’s your body or your mind,” Anderson said. “I do these events in these churches because the higher power that I believe in is what we can achieve if we all start working selflessly and together.”
Eye On St. Paul recently sat down with Anderson, who partners with local vegan chefs Zachary Hurdle and John Stockman through the Twin Cities Vegan Chef Collective, to talk about their work to improve community health and unity, a food at a time.
This interview has been edited for length.
Q: What do you hope to achieve with these dinners?
A: We need to get Minnesota to a point where Minnesota can feed Minnesota.
It is in response to two desecrating corruptions of our food system: we are burning our environment, and the resources on which the future will depend, and sending food to places that already have it. We also have foods that are so poisonous that we have diet-related diseases and illnesses.
We have put the unhealthiest foods in the communities that have the worst environmental effects. of racism
Q: Tell me a little about Eureka.
A: I started Eureka Compass Vegan Food in 2017 as a correction to what vegan food was becoming as it became more mainstream: fried and highly processed junk food. They make food in a lab, then wrap it in plastic and ship it around the world. If you look at Impossible Burger, it’s literally genetically modified yeast that feeds on soybeans, which is more monoculture farming.
Q: It seems that you are not only promoting vegan food, but also recognizable, sustainable and locally grown.
A: Yes. We are talking about complete veganism. [For this meal] I biked to the farmers market on my cargo bike. I brought my own bags and my own box. Then I biked back here, put the food in the fridge. Nothing in plastic. The manufacture of plastics pollutes the environment, kills people every day. It’s hard to give it up, but if we’re going to be vegan on a large scale, we need to acknowledge it. We have to say, “That’s not vegan.”
And when I go to the farmers market, I’m looking to buy the last of something, say the last of the cauliflower or the last of the red potatoes.
A: There is an emotional aspect when you are selling something. And an efficiency. I have four small heads of cauliflower left. Well that’s a bit annoying. Now, they can consolidate.
Q: I imagine it feels good for them to sell as well.
A: Yes Yes! Too often, we refuse to acknowledge that there is a human being right there. But that person standing there at his table at the farmers market, if I can give that little win, that’s solidarity. That is community.
Q: What do you expect people to get besides food?
A: let them see it At each community dinner, the recipes are never repeated. If you want to know how I did it, I’ll tell you. There are people who email me later, saying, “What was this? Because this is amazing.” And I say here, this is how you do it.
I have a friend [a vegan chef and spoken word poet] who said, “We’d rather watch a sermon than listen to a sermon.” Do you want people to eat vegan food? Serve them vegan food.
Q: Have you started a vegan food rack?
A: yes. thursday [July 28], we’ll be doing the first all-vegan food stall from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church, 1697 Lafond, in conjunction with Arts on Lafond. We hope to get the support to do this every Thursday.
Q: You are spending a lot of your own money to buy food that you are giving away. Why?
A: I work with creative food people. [such as Co-op Partners Warehouse]. I’m spending $1,300 on an order of local produce; I’m self-funding this until I can’t take it anymore.
Why? Because I want them to be sustainable too. We receive $356 a month from 56 patrons. But what if we had 2,000 patrons contributing $2 a month? We could do this every week. We are not asking for donations. This is not charity. This is solidarity.
Q: How do you avoid getting discouraged?
A: I’ve gotten discouraged. I have terrible moments of frustration. To sit there and you can see 400 people on LinkedIn, or 1,000 people on Instagram, they saw that post and not one of them clicked on it. [sponsor] Link?
But I’ve already got it. The people I have the privilege of being around are phenomenal. It’s the feeling that I have [when] someone walks in and says, “Not only is this the best meal we’ve had all week, but my family needed it.”