Feature: Shanay, MPH

Shanay, MPH is a Stanford medical student, holds her Master’s degree in Public Health, is a former Wilhelmina model, and has recently started a non-profit called The Friday Project that delivers vegan burritos and cookies to homeless children and adults in the Bay Area and LA. She also mentors at-risk girls in Berkeley, is a contributing health writer for the Huffington Post, CNN and Essence, and is launching a vegan pregnancy line with her classmate, exclusively for Target in 2019. Last but not least, she is competing in the Miss California pageant this December!

What inspired me to become vegan? Ok. So I should preface that I never really ate meat as a kid. It truly just grossed me out. With corn dogs, chicken nuggets, burgers, I would eat the breading/toppings and leave the meat alone. So in a way I was probably an ovo-lacto vegetarian as a child and didn't even know it! I became an “official” vegetarian as a pre-med at UC Berkeley after watching a powerful documentary called Earthlings as a class assignment. If you haven't watched it, do it now!

After that, I educated myself on ethical, environmental and science-based personal benefits of a vegan lifestyle because I wanted to do more for the animals and my health. After a few failed attempts - (walked into Chipotle, ordered that burrito bowl with cheese and sour cream…. I know, guilty!) I finally fully transitioned to a vegan lifestyle. I've been vegan for 5 years and I am never looking back! I had a great deal of energy, I was forced (in the most amazing way) to expand my palate and experience fresh, nourishing fruits and vegetables I would've never thought of trying. I felt fit, sexy and sharp.

Educating the Community: As an at-risk teen mentor of 10 girls, I hold tons of different workshops and field trips throughout the school year, but one of my favorites would be my vegan cooking class. Most of my mentees think being a vegan means you eat close to nothing, or the food is bland, and I wanted to change their mindset and give them perspective. I start with educating them on the definition of vegan, the endless benefits, and that a well-planned plant-based diet is rich in protein, iron, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals. Then we get straight to the food! The look my mentees make after the first bite are always priceless!  Some even gave up meat 2-3 times a week and shared the info with their peers. So I can't stress enough the importance of educating your community.

Tips? A couple of tips I would give to anyone going vegan, is to stay informed and go at your own pace. No one is the perfect vegan starting out, don't give up! So go ahead and nourish yourself in the most delicious and ethical way possible...you and the animals deserve it! With love and gratitude, Shanay

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