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A spirit that is not afraid

Plant Based Plainsman cultivates Auburn's vegans, vegetarians

<p>Jean Gannett and Ali Sanchez, pictured here during Plant Based Plainsman's first semester, founded the club their sophomore year after meeting each other on campus.</p>

Jean Gannett and Ali Sanchez, pictured here during Plant Based Plainsman's first semester, founded the club their sophomore year after meeting each other on campus.

There are many Auburn students who would describe their diets as vegan, vegetarian or somewhere in between. To accommodate and provide a support system for students with these diets, Jean Gannett, senior in art studies, started a club called the Plant-Based Plainsman.

The club serves as a vegan-interest club. Its goal is to create a community for people with vegan or vegetarian diets and to help those who are interested in vegan and vegetarian diets learn more about the benefits of the lifestyle. 

“We want to educate our classmates on the reasons to go vegan, like the morals, health, sustainability and many other beneficial aspects,” Gannett said. “We also want to create a welcoming environment for existing vegan students at Auburn. Non-vegans, vegetarians and anything in between are welcome.”

Gannett said that she and some of her close friends founded the club in the spring of her sophomore year. 

“The club was honestly started because we wanted to find more vegans to hang out with,” Gannett said. “I did not know any other vegans when I first went vegan. I met my first vegan friend and fellow co-founder, Alejandra Sanchez, on the Haley Concourse in passing because she was wearing a T-shirt that said something like, ‘Eat Veggies, Not Friends.’”

Gannett said she stopped Sanchez and got her number because she wanted a vegan friend. Sanchez was also in want of a friend with a vegan diet, so Gannett said that’s how they became friends. 

“It’s not like we only wanted to be friends with vegans; we both have non-vegan friends,” Gannett said. “We just wanted to be able to vent and talk about our diets and lifestyle without annoying our non-vegan friends.”

The club had meetings last semester over Zoom to adhere to the University's COVID-19 guidelines. In the past, the meetings were held in the Mell Classroom Building room on campus and the club served free vegan food. Gannett said that last semester's attendance was low because it was difficult keeping members interested in Zoom meetings, especially since the potluck of vegan food is such a vital part of the club. 

“It was really awesome because non-vegans got to try certain vegan foods for the first time, cooked properly by long-time vegans,” said Gannett. “Not to mention, who doesn’t love free food?”

The AUInvolve page says the club has 64 members, but Gannett said many of those have graduated. She said the attendance of meetings would be between five and 10 members coming to each meeting. When quarantine began though, the numbers started to drop. However, the club's members are still very active on the mobile app GroupMe. 

“We discuss vegan options at local restaurants, veg-news, new food options released at restaurant chains and grocery stores, deals on vegan food and brands who have recently gone cruelty-free,” Gannett said. “It’s a great place to ask questions about the vegan lifestyle.” 

Gannett said that half of the club’s members are non-vegan. Many people considering switching to the vegan diet or people who just wanted to reduce their animal product consumption found the community at PBP to be very welcoming and supportive of this venture, she said. 

Gannett has been vegan since July 2017, the summer before she came to Auburn. She said she went vegan at first for the health benefits, and she stayed vegan after she learned of the benefits the vegan diet has on the planet and the animals. 

“I learned about the incredible things it could do for your body, and eating plants honestly just sounded like it made sense,” she said.

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