The major global campaign Million Dollar Vegan, which asked Pope Francis to try a plant-based diet for Lent, has given $100,000 to the vegan humanitarian aid organisation Chilis on Wheels to help survivors of Hurricane Maria.
Million Dollar Vegan originally offered $1 million to a charity of Pope Francis’ choice if he accepted the challenge to go vegan for Lent.
The campaign was fronted by twelve-year-old activist Genesis Butler, who wrote to Pope Francis in a letter published in major newspapers around the world, and visited the Vatican where she hoped to meet His Holiness in person to ask him to fight climate change with diet change.
His Holiness responded to the letter, blessed Genesis, and said that he would pray for her, but he did not confirm whether he would be opting to try a plant-based diet.
As a goodwill gesture Million Dollar Vegan chose to make the significant donation of $100,000 USD to Chilis on Wheels. Butler visited Puerto Rico earlier this month to view the work that Chilis on Wheels carries out with survivors of Hurricane Maria.
After the devastating hurricane in September 2017, in which around 3,000 people died and thousands more were displaced, Chilis on Wheels rushed to provide food relief to survivors. In the immediate aftermath, the organisation served 15,000 vegan meals, and provided groceries, water filters, solar lanterns and hygiene products.
Chilis on Wheels was then able to set up a permanent community centre in San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital city, where it continues to serve vegan food to vulnerable people, and also holds workshops, training, documentary screenings and community events.
During Butler’s visit to the centre, she met with Michelle Carrera, founder and executive director of Chilis on Wheels, and Anthony Martinez, director of Casa Vegana de la Comunidad – the Chilis on Wheels community centre in Puerto Rico.
Butler attended a workshop where local children and their parents were taught how to make fun and healthy plant-based dishes including berry pancakes and banana fruit snacks.
Butler also interviewed three local children about their experience during the hurricane, and about why veganism is so important to them.
In addition, Butler spent the day helping to prepare and serve food at a homeless shelter, which is part of a food share programme that Chilis on Wheels runs every Tuesday. The food is a plant-based take on traditional local dishes. Images of Butler’s visit to Puerto Rico are available here.
Speaking about her trip, Butler said: “It was very humbling and inspiring to meet people in Puerto Rico who are helping to rebuild their lives after Hurricane Maria. It was wonderful to see how vegan food – as a sustainable food choice – can help hurricane survivors in a country where many people have been forced to go hungry.
“It was also great to hear how Million Dollar Vegan’s $100,000 donation will help Chilis on Wheels continue the amazing work in Puerto Rico and in other countries too.
Even though the Pope didn’t agree to go vegan for Lent, I’m really happy that many people in need will still benefit from this campaign, and that we were able to encourage thousands of people to try a vegan diet – to help animals, our planet and our health.”
Hurricanes and extreme weather events are increasing due to human-induced climate change. Animal agriculture has a greater impact on global warming than the fuel emissions from the entire global transport sector combined, is a leading driver of deforestation and biodiversity loss, and causes suffering to billions of farmed animals.
These are all reasons why Million Dollar Vegan asked Pope Francis to fight climate change with diet change.
Michelle Carrera, founder of Chilis on Wheels, said: “We are beyond delighted to receive the donation of $100,000 from the Million Dollar Vegan campaign. Puerto Rico is a country that has been hugely affected by extreme weather events and food insecurity.
"The donation will enable us to continue to offer vegan meals to people in need, providing a sustainable diet as a way to build a better future.”
Tens of thousands of people downloaded a vegan starter kit from the Million Dollar Vegan website, with people from 193 countries worldwide clicking on the website to find out more. Meanwhile, almost 90,000 people signed a petition asking Pope Francis to go vegan for Lent.
Details on how the campaign progressed can be found here.
The $100,000 donation to Chilis on Wheels was provided by Blue Horizon International Foundation. Million Dollar Vegan plans to run future campaigns and so the $1 million originally offered to Pope Francis will be offered to other influential figures if they promote a plant-based diet. Watch this space for more details.
This article is based on a press release from the Million Dollar Vegan campaign.