Does Location Make it Hard to Be a Vegetarian?

by Stephanie on June 3, 2011 · 0 comments

in Food & Nutrition


A good friend of mine was in from out of town this past weekend and her presence prompted some interesting conversations about food. When she moved from the Midwest to the East Coast three years ago she decided to become a vegetarian. She mentioned that she had tried to be a vegetarian here (Iowa/Illinois) and found it incredibly difficult. This brought up a question that I’d never considered before…

How much does where you live affect your ability to be a vegetarian?

There are a couple of ways to look at this. The simple fact of the matter is that if you really, really want to be a vegetarian, you’ll do it wherever you are. That being said, it might be easier in some places than in others and if its easier more people might do it.

In my mind (and I’m no expert), it’s more a matter of city size than it is the position of that city in the country. There are certain stores that lend themselves to vegetarian, local, and organic eating. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and World Market top my list of stores like these. Where I live (a 4-city metro area of about ~200,000 tops that feels much smaller, at least to me) we have no such stores. But Chicago does. St. Louis does. Madison and Milwaukee do.

One of the benefits of being in a bigger city is more variety. It’s not just these stores either. More health food stores, vegetarian restaurants, farmer’s markets, and community shared agriculture (where you buy shares of a garden and in return get a percentage of that garden’s yield). All of these things can help make it easier to eat a certain way.

To be fair, the local groceries stores in my area do have “health food markets” or sections in the store where they sell the veggie burgers, tofu, and other vegetarian fair. There’s not as much variety but they are trying and they have gotten better over the last few years.

If you’re sensing a little defensiveness on my part, you aren’t wrong. I can’t help it. I love the Midwest. I think the people here are super nice and it’s a great place to live. I just don’t want the Midwest to get a bad rap as unfriendly to the vegetarians (because my friend has said this about the Midwest to me several times and I know she says it to others as well). I also know that I am not a vegetarian and I don’t have enough knowledge to make a determination. Maybe I’m overlooking some really obvious arguments. Maybe East Coast cities have even better options than Midwest cities. Maybe the West is best. Or South. Growing seasons are shorter in certain areas so maybe that makes the difference. I really don’t know.

There’s where you guys come in. I want to hear your opinions!

Is it easier to be a vegetarian in certain areas of the country? What makes the difference? Do the offerings in big cities vary based on region (East, West, Midwest, South)? What ways have you found to make it easier to do in your area?

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