Million Dollar Vegan gives $100,000 to hurricane survivors

Chilis on Wheels with Genesis Butler

As Lent draws to a close, Million Dollar Vegan is delighted to announce that we have donated $100,000 to the vegan humanitarian aid organization, Chilis on Wheels, to help survivors of Hurricane Maria.

We had originally hoped to give $1 million to a charity of Pope Francis’ choice, had he agreed to try a vegan diet for Lent. However, as Pope Francis did not confirm whether he’d accepted our challenge, as a goodwill gesture we decided to donate $100,000 to an organization that recognizes the power of a plant-based diet in helping to address humanitarian and environmental issues.

Genesis Butler, the 12-year-old American activist who fronted the Million Dollar Vegan campaign, visited Puerto Rico earlier this month to view the work that Chilis on Wheels carries out.

Chilis on Wheels provides food to hurricane survivors

After the devastation of Hurricane Maria 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 organization 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 center 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 which make veganism accessible to all.

Genesis meets Chilis on Wheels and helps serve food at a homeless shelter

During Genesis’s visit to the center, 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 center in Puerto Rico. Here, Genesis attended a workshop where local children and their parents were taught how to make fun, healthy plant-based dishes including berry pancakes and banana fruit snacks. Genesis also interviewed three local children about their experience during the hurricane, and about why veganism is so important to them.

In addition, Genesis 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.

Speaking about her trip, Genesis 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.”

It is thought that 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.

The $100,000 donation to Chilis on Wheels was provided by the Blue Horizon International Foundation. Million Dollar Vegan plans to run future campaigns and use the $1 million originally offered to Pope Francis to encourage other influential figures to adopt and promote a plant-based diet. Watch this space for more details!

Our Vegan Starter Kit is still available to download here for anyone wishing to try a vegan diet beyond Lent.

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* Representing 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, compared to 14% GHG from the fuel emissions of the transport industry.

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