Photo by Maria Furukawa

Veggie Jackets is a newly chartered organization, formed only at the beginning of the fall semester of 2016.

When a loose group of students expressed a sincere and genuine interest in creating a more organized club for the vegans and vegetarians on campus, Katie Ketchum, third-year IE, stepped up and helped them start out; she is now president.

“We just want to spread knowledge about being vegan and vegetarian and let people know what goes on that they might not normally think of,” Ketchum said. “We want to give vegans and vegetarians a community where they feel like their ideas are accepted.”

After creating a constitution, obtaining the minimum number of members and getting everything cleared by the Student Engagement Office, Veggie Jackets became an established club and has been a presence on campus ever since.

Ketchum is working with PETA to campaign for more choices on campus.

“We really want to get better options on campus and better labeling for vegan and vegetarian foods in dining halls,” Ketchum said. “Often, there will be something that says it’s dairy-free, but in the ingredients it says cheese. We want to fix issues like that.”

PETA, as well as the club’s sponsor, David Bader, have helped get the ball rolling on making real change on Tech’s campus. Veggie Jackets members have met with dining services, auxiliary services, marketing and other organizations and departments on campus.

For the time being, Veggie Jackets is creating resources to educate vegans and vegetarians at Tech about their existing options at the various dining locations on campus including food trucks and dining halls.

Veggie Jackets meets every other week, and regularly organizes additional events for their members and other students in the Tech community.

Ketchum spoke of last semester’s Lunch and Learn.

“We were introducing ourselves to campus and going into a little bit of detail on the perks of being vegan. … One hundred and twenty people came. People were out the door.”

They hold other events, like a vegan Thanksgiving potluck dinner, and each of their meetings has free food, vegan of course, for the attendees.

An upcoming event on March 6 will feature the documentary “Forks Over Knives,” which talks about the health-related reasons for veganism.

According to Ketchum, there are three general reasons that people go vegan or vegetarian: environmental, health-based or concerns about animal treatment. The club tries to incorporate all of three of these concerns with their various activities.

Every other week, members from the club go to Full Circle, a farm animal sanctuary in Warm Springs, to visit the animals and do volunteer work. Veggie Jackets encourages people who aren’t vegan or vegetarian to join club members for these days as well.

“Last month, we went and built a goat playground,” said Ketchum. “It’s a really happy setting in general. I think it’s the best place on earth. I think if people could see it, their opinions would change.”

A tight-knit community seems to have formed as these plant-minded individuals confront culinary challenges at Tech and in the Atlanta area. Students often plan group dinners at local vegan restaurants and interact on the club’s Facebook group.

Ketchum spoke a little about her personal reasons for choosing a vegan diet.

“I have always loved animals more than anything. About five and a half years ago, I saw a video on factory farming and slaughterhouses. I didn’t know that any of that was going on, so from there on I was vegetarian.”

Soon afterwards, she learned more about the dairy industry and became vegan. She wants to break down some of the misconceptions that people have about veganism and describes it as her life mission to be a voice for animals.

“I am proud of it and I like to help in any way I can,” Ketchum said. “My life goal would be to save a lot of money as I am working and retire and build a farm sanctuary.”

The club has made a lot of progress in the last few months, but they still have a long way to go in terms of making campus more vegan-friendly. They depend on support from Tech administration and other larger organizations such as The Humane League and PETA.

It is certainly a testament to the ability to make change in a real and tangible way.