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How this Latina-Led Organization Champions Human and Animal Rights

Food Empowerment Project is on a mission to transform our food system, and we’re all for it.

Vegan tamales

Courtesy of Food Empowerment Project

Food Empowerment Project is on a mission to transform our food system, and we’re all for it.

Happy Latine Heritage Month! To celebrate, we’re highlighting a proud Xicanx who pioneered incredible efforts in the animal rights movement. lauren Ornelas is the founder of Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.), a vegan food justice organization that sees food as a tool for social and political change. Read on to learn more about this one-of-a-kind group fighting for a more sustainable and compassionate future.

lauren Ornelas’ Journey to Veganism

Since childhood, Ornelas has had a strong internal compass that grounds her in her ethics. Growing up amid the Delano Grape Strike, she was raised with an understanding of farm worker rights and what it means to support those who pick our fruits and vegetables. Her compassion extended to animals soon after. After going vegan as a teenager, Ornelas started the first high school animal rights group in Texas, thus sparking the beginning of the tireless fight for animals, humans, and the environment.

Her fight for a more just world was elevated when she spoke at the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela in 2006. There, she saw activists who not only aligned with her mission to advocate for all beings but also who celebrated and embraced their culture. This inspired the creation of Food Empowerment Project.

Lauren Ornelas with chickens

Food Empowerment Project Founder lauren Ornelas photo by Heidi Margocsy

Food Empowerment Project’s Holistic Approach to Veganism

Food Empowerment Project views all forms of oppression as interconnected and fights for various issues year-round. “As a Xicanx-led org, we not only discuss the suffering of non-human animals and promote veganism but don’t lose sight of also calling for justice for those in our community who are negatively impacted by the current food system—whether it be workers or those living in communities suffering from food apartheid,” Ornelas shared.

The vegan organization has four key programs: promoting veganism for the animals, advocating for farm worker rights, fighting food apartheid, and raising awareness about the worst forms of child labor in the chocolate industry. By connecting all corners in the food justice fight, F.E.P.’s mission is to inform people about the power of their food choices.

Championing Latine Voices Year-Round

Food Empowerment Project offers multiple resources, including recipe booklets and websites, to show vegan and vegan-curious foodies they can still enjoy their nostalgic favorites without losing connection to their culture.

For Latine Heritage Month, we highlight F.E.P.’s first recipe site, VeganMexicanFood.com! The website features a host of mouthwatering entrees, desserts, and appetizers and will be your go-to cooking inspo this month and beyond. Indulge in Mexican staples like tamales, buñelos, chilorio, conchas, and so much more. Booklet recipes are available in English and Spanish.

When asked what went into creating it, Ornelas shared, “A lot of love and aspirations! This was the first website for F.E.P., even before our main site, FoodIsPower.org. We wanted this recipe page to be built by everyone, not just formal, popular chefs, but home chefs who wanted to share the recipes they had created.” She continued, “We also looked more into colonization’s impact on our people. And for those of us who are indigenous, not only [did we have] our land taken away, but it changed how we ate forever.”

Additionally, Ornelas shows up for her community by organizing an annual school supply drive for the children of farm workers. Over 16 years, they’ve donated more than 5,000 backpacks, preparing hundreds of kids for the school season.

Go and Stay Vegan with Food Empowerment Project

For some, going vegan in a Latine household can be challenging. We’re met with stigmas and judgments that can alter our commitment to a better world. But Food Empowerment Project breaks that narrative, embraces our cultures and traditions and ensures we eat our ethics. “It doesn’t compromise our culture to stand on the side of compassion and justice for all. Standing in opposition to tools of oppression and exploitation fits right in,” Ornelas shared.

Visit FoodIsPower.org to learn more about F.E.P.’s incredible work, and follow them on Instagram! Check out their additional recipe sites: VeganLaoFood.com, VeganFilipinoFood.com, and their newest website, VeganChineseFood.com!

Alejandra Tolley

Alejandra Tolley


Vegan junk-foodie Alejandra was born and raised in Los Angeles County. As a self-made writer, she always makes sure that she advocates for all humans and animals. When she’s not typing the day away, you can find her singing her lungs out to Mitski, taking pictures of her doggies Luna and Dexter, or stocking her kitchen with more avocados, strawberries, and Kettle Salt n Vinegar chips. Alejandra also loves traveling and sharing her eats from around the world on Instagram.

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