Plant-Based Nutrition Club creates a ‘social space’ for vegans, vegetarians

By Lia Gips


(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)
(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

As of Tuesday night, Paul Leckey has been vegan for exactly five weeks. Earlier this semester, he saw the documentary “Vegucated” with University of Massachusetts’ Plant-Based Nutrition Club (PNUT) and promptly stopped eating meat, dairy and eggs.

“I had never really thought about it before, but I had meat with my lunch that day, and after the movie, I decided to become vegan that night,” said Leckey, a freshman mechanical engineering student.

PNUT was established during the Spring 2015 semester to “educate the UMass campus about benefits of vegetarian(ism) and veganism for animals and the environment,” according to the group’s founder, Haley Harzynski, a senior studying nutrition.

“I also wanted to create a social space, a kind of community for people who might feel like outsiders,” she said after a PNUT meeting on Tuesday.

PNUT meets every other Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Chenoweth Laboratory room 113. According to Harzynski, about 25 to 40 people usually attend the meetings.

“It didn’t really take off until last semester,” she said.

A typical PNUT meeting consists of presentations by group members about their own public advocacy efforts, an activity or discussion about veganism in small groups and a longer conversation as a large group around a theme related to vegetarianism or veganism. These themes may focus on the logistics of plant-based diets, such as how to cook balanced meals and where on campus to find vegan options.

Last week, PNUT’s theme was understanding veganism as not-necessarily a perfect lifestyle, but rather a way of doing “what we can, when we can,” in the words of Harzynski.

Most meetings also provide resources for students to take on direct advocacy roles.

PNUT organizes flyer distributing and leafleting by group members, and shares strategies for how best to approach people about plant-based nutrition. Harzynski has found that “plant-based nutrition” elicits more positive responses.

PNUT is currently working to get funding from UMass, but in the meantime they are selling T-shirts advertising the club and planning to host a bake sale.

PNUT frequently screens educational documentaries related to their cause, like the one that convinced Leckey to become vegan. On Thursday, March 10 in Chenoweth Laboratory room 113, PNUT will be screening a film about three vegetarian activists, “PlantPure Nation,” followed by a short discussion of the movie.

Lia Gips can be reached at [email protected]