In this episode of the Vedge Your Best podcast, my guest is Kay Stepkin, founder of The Vegan Museum in Chicago. The episode delves into Kay’s journey from vegetarianism to veganism and her work as a vegetarian entrepreneur in Chicago. Her path to vegetarianism began unexpectedly after reading a James Bond novel, Thunderball, which mentioned a health farm with a vegetarian diet. This piqued her interest and led her to explore health and diet more deeply, eventually leading to her becoming a vegetarian in 1970 and later a vegan.
Kay shares her experiences of opening the Bread Shop in 1971, which she believes was Chicago’s first vegetarian business. She later discovered that Chicago has a rich history of vegetarianism dating back to the 1800s. This revelation inspired her to establish The Vegan Museum to educate and share this history with others.
The museum, currently a traveling exhibit, features 12 panels and a video by Victoria Moran, in which she discusses vegetarian history. It aims to reach not just vegans but those on the brink of veganism, by emphasizing the importance of veganism in addressing health, environmental, and ethical issues.
Kay shares the challenges and successes of running the museum, including fundraising efforts and the desire for a permanent location. She emphasizes the importance of veganism in the broader context of societal and environmental health and advocates for character development and harmonious collaboration as crucial for the survival of our species and planet.