The major global campaign, Million Dollar Vegan, which asked Pope Francis to try a plant-based diet for Lent, has given $100,000 to vegan humanitarian aid organisation, Chilis on Wheels, to help survivors of Hurricane Maria.
Million Dollar Vegan originally offered $1 million to a charity of Pope Francis’ choice if he accepted the challenge to go vegan for Lent. Genesis Butler, the 12-year-old American activist who fronted the campaign, wrote to Pope Francis in a letter published in major newspapers around the world, and visited the Vatican where she hoped to meet His Holiness in person to ask him to fight climate change with diet change. While His Holiness responded to the letter, in which he blessed Genesis and said he would pray for her, he did not confirm whether he would be opting to try a plant-based diet.
Therefore, as a goodwill gesture Million Dollar Vegan chose to make a donation of $100,000 USD to Chilis on Wheels. After the devastating hurricane 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 organisation 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 centre 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.
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 visiting 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 Blue Horizon International Foundation. Million Dollar Vegan plans to run future campaigns and so the $1 million originally offered to Pope Francis will be offered to other influential figures if they promote a plant-based diet.
* Representing 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, compared to 14% GHG from the fuel emissions of the transport industry.