PAWS Magazine


Issue 46, Summer 2000


Joanne Stepaniak spreads healthy message

Whether it be a teenage Russian girl asking questions about vegetarianism, a South African elder inquiring about meat alternatives, an Indian man looking for tofu recipes, or a Seattle mom inquiring about calcium content in soy and rice milk, they all seem to ask Joanne!

Joanne Stepaniak, MSEd, is a writer, counselor, educator and recipe innovator who has been involved with vegetarian and vegan related issues for over three decades. With the help of her two shelter adopted cats, Kalonji and Madhi, she writes Ask Joanne!, an advice column on compassionate living for Vegetarian Voice magazine, the North American Vegetarian Society’s (NAVS) national publication. Joanne will be a featured speaker at EarthSave’s “Taste of Health” fair in early October.

One of the most common types of questions Joanne receives deals with supporting and counseling teenagers whose parents do not easily accept their children’s choice to go vegetarian or vegan. Joanne’s advice differs with each particular situation. For example, a teen’s mother in Kuwait may be more supportive with the life-style change than a teen’s parent in China. Each person’s case is unique and important. “Children are entitled to their beliefs,” says Joanne.

She emphasizes that the beliefs must be safe. “Parents should have a respect for their children’s values and beliefs as long as their values and beliefs do not hurt themselves or others,” says Joanne.

Joanne believes when it comes to vegetarian and vegan foods, parents and schools should expand and explore their diets. “Children have powerful beliefs and a love and fascination with animals,” says Joanne. “It is not that kids won’t like vegetarian food it is just that they haven’t tried it. Their taste buds have not been adulterated. They have not formed the habits of an adult, the habits of a lifetime.”

Joanne’s advice comes from her heart. She has been vegetarian for thirty-six years and vegan for twenty. “It was hard back then,” says Joanne of her younger days. “I don’t even know where I heard the word vegetarian. There weren’t any convenience foods and natural food stores were nonexistent.”

Yet inside Joanne always believed in her ability to be true to her beliefs. “You get out of yourself what you put into yourself,” says Joanne, “and you can make change wherever you are.

“While I was growing up cows would come up to the kids in the back of my playground,” says Joanne. “One day something just spoke to my heart, telling me it was wrong to eat animals.” This heartfelt message had a profound influence on her life and was a first step in Joanne’s journey of compassionate living.

The author of seven cookbooks including “The Saucy Vegetarian,” “The Uncheese Cookbook,” and “Delicious Food for a Healthy Heart,” she also wrote “The Vegan Sourcebook,” a comprehensive guide to compassionate vegan living encompassing the history, ethics and philosophy of the vegan movement, as well as environmental, sociological, psychological and nutritional perspectives.

Joanne has been a frequent guest presenter, lecturer and workshop leader for numerous national events, and is looking forward to her appearance at the Taste of Health. “I am hoping something I say will inspire people to take a closer look at their lives in an area they may not have previously considered,” says Joanne. “My wish is that all human beings would treat each other and all life with the respect, love and kindness that we wish to receive ourselves.”

Joanne’s books are available for purchase on-line at An archive of “Ask Joanne” columns are available on-line at the site as well.

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