Updated February 4, 2021 - 7:18 am
Like many Americans, Mindy Poortinga was moved by the stories of increasing food insecurity brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. After closing her vegan meal prep service last year to focus on opening a vegan culinary school/deli in the Arts District this year, the chef had the time to volunteer at a food bank.
“I’m an ethical vegan, so I don’t like the killing of the animals and the cruelty aspect of it,” said Poortinga, who gave up eating animal products about six years ago. “So I didn’t want to volunteer at places where I’m handing out animal products that I’m not feeling good about.”
Assuming that the food insecurity plaguing Las Vegas and the country also is affecting the vegan community, she turned to social media and the Las Vegas Vegans Facebook page to see if she could rally support for a plant-based food bank.
“I couldn’t believe how many people were interested,” she said.
Poortinga quickly reached out to her friend Trench Picone, who runs the nonprofit RIR Animal Sanctuary on Arville Street, and asked if she could use the property for food distributions. With that, the LasVeganFood Bank was born.
Relying entirely on donated food and volunteers to distribute it, the group has hosted two biweekly events at the sanctuary. At the first event, they handed out about 20 boxes of lentils, rice, beans, nuts and other vegan groceries to people who reserved them online. Thanks to contributions from local businesses and individuals, the group was able to increase that number to 40 boxes at their most recent distribution on Jan. 23. Each box has enough ingredients for at least 10 meals.
The response has been overwhelming. The group was forced to stop taking reservations for their next distribution after just two days, when their 40 available boxes were all reserved.
“We probably would have had like 300 people register for boxes, but we shut it down,” said Poortinga, who is hoping to be able to distribute more food at future events. “Nobody should go hungry. There’s so much food waste, and people are in need now. So as long as people need food, we’ll do whatever we can to get them the grocery boxes.”
To donate food, or find out when to sign up to reserve a box, go to facebook.com/lasveganfoodbank.