Veggie Febbie: Cultivating a Plant-Based Community
This February, Veggie Club challenges Amherst students to try a plant-based diet for “Veggie Febbie.” Their end goal is to build a plant-based community and, for President Tim Carroll ’25, to convert a new class of long-term vegetarians.
Every morning this month, I’ve woken up to an email in my inbox from Veggie Club, a group for Amherst students interested in plant-based lifestyles. The approximately 130 of us who receive Tim Carroll ’25’s morning messages have opted into emails about “Veggie Febbie.” Veggie Febbie consists of Carroll, the president of Veggie Club, challenging people to go vegetarian for the month of February.
Sixteen people, including myself, have officially undertaken the challenge this year. Carroll, who is a vegan as of March 2022, refers to us as “New Blood” and “Old Blood” in his emails, depending on how long we’ve been doing Veggie Febbie. He doesn’t shy away from the true purpose of the challenge: “I do have a goal,” he said. “And it’s to convert people to vegetarianism.”
The Veggie Febbie emails, most of which Carroll writes, are wide-ranging in content. Sometimes they contain tips for being vegetarian (like taking vitamins); sometimes there are brutal descriptions of factory farming; almost always, there are passages from Peter Singer’s “Animal Rights,” which Carroll cites as “now the seminal text in animal liberation.” The emails also often advertise Veggie Club’s weekly Veggie Febbie dinners in Valentine Dining Hall, where people gather to eat vegetarian food and discuss everything Veggie Febbie.
The club began as a bet between friends. Last year, Carroll and Veggie Club Vice President Hannah Koo ’25 were arguing about which city was superior: New York or Chicago. Carroll, who is from New Jersey, bet Koo that she couldn’t go one month eating vegetarian. I’m still confused about what that had to do with city superiority, but Koo took the bet, and by the end of February, Carroll had a Chicago flag sticker on his water bottle — a sticker that remains there to this day.
During that last February, Carroll would send Koo daily emails containing key passages from “Animal Rights,” the text that initially convinced Carroll to go vegetarian in his sophomore year of high school.
“I was like, ‘Well, I’m kind of interested in converting her to be vegetarian long term,’” Carroll said. “And so I thought, ‘How am I going to do that? Well, if I give her the same theoretical readings that I got, that converted me to vegetarianism, maybe that would convert her long term.’”
Carroll added a handful of other people who he and Koo were eating lunch with to the mailing list, and pretty soon more people started to hear about Veggie Febbie. By the end of February 2022, the mailing list had around 100 people. That initial Veggie Febbie grew into Veggie Club, which 130 people signed up for at the most recent club fair.
“I honestly should do some more PR advertising,” he says. “Because there are probably still vegetarians and vegans that aren’t in Veggie Club.” I think this article might count as PR, I tell him.
Koo says that one of the main differences between this year’s Veggie Febbie and last year’s is that now Veggie Club is a Registered Student Organization (RSO), which means they can get funding for things like vegetarian dinners.
“We mostly talk about the ethics behind going vegetarian,” Koo said. “Some of the time, I’ll bring my friends who are not participating in Veggie Febbie. And it’s kind of fun to try and convince them and to talk about the ethics.”
Although Koo talks about “convincing them,” I notice that she has perhaps a less intense conversion agenda than, say, Carroll.
“My strategy is just … talking about my own experience. And I think my overarching goal was to just have more people eat more plant-based as opposed to having more people go vegetarian or vegan.”
Koo put her strategy of shared experience into action when she guest wrote the fifth Veggie Febbie email this month. She talked about how hard it was for her to go home and not eat her grandmother’s Korean cooking, which contained meat almost all of the time.
“Because I grew up eating her food, I felt like I was denying that part of my relationship with my grandma and losing my culture,” Koo wrote in her email.
Ultimately, Koo decided to stay vegetarian, with the exception of eating her grandmother’s Korean cooking when she went home. She reminds others that “plant-based eating should be about what’s best for you.”
Koo’s strategy certainly resonates with me, but people undertake Veggie Febbie for all kinds of reasons. Chris Tun ’25, who Carroll referred to as a “devoted disciple,” likes that Veggie Febbie pushes him. Tun joined Veggie Febbie 2022 for its final week, but has not been vegetarian in the meantime. He did, however, reduce his meat consumption.
“Ever since last year, I’ve been anticipating it,” Tun said. “You know, I love a challenge. I’m challenging my self control.” So far, Tun is going strong.
Tun also finds the ethics portions of the emails compelling.
“I think what’s interesting about his emails are the philosophy parts, and especially the ones where he's talking about applying the rights we give to humans to animals. I mean, that's fair. That is a good point. But, you know, we’re so selfish as a species that we kind of just don't think about it.”
Tun also talked about how Valentine Dining Hall affects his Veggie Febbie. He thinks their plant-based options are pretty good, but I know that other members of the club have struggled, especially when it comes to plant-based protein.
“Word on the street is that the eggplant stew last night was bad,” wrote Carroll in his Feb. 21 email. “It wasn’t the best thing I’ve had, I’ll admit that. But I’m proud of all the Veggie advocates who held strong and DID NOT break VF! In moments like those, it can be hard, as well as in moments where it’s just a block of tempeh or tofu. You might raise an angry fist to your Gods, and beg the universe — why? — and receive only cold, cold silence as your answer, but at least you reside with a sound conscience.”
Veggie Club is always welcoming prospective plant-eaters, even as this year’s Veggie Febbie comes to a close. Email [email protected] to get involved.