We’re continuing our series of posts introducing our network members – from the veteran vegans to those simply vegan-curious (we’re a very inclusive bunch). This time, let’s get to know Rebecca Atkinson.
What do you do at Suffolk County Council?
I’m a Systems Manager for Social Care, Early Help and Finance, managing the team that handles all the support and development for Liquidlogic and ContrOCC systems across ACS and CYP. I’ve worked for Suffolk County Council for 31 years across nearly all services, so some of you may have crossed paths with me at some point!
How long have you been vegan?
I decided to transition to veganism for health reasons about four years ago.
Why did you go vegan?
I have long-standing digestive issues and learnt more about a plant-based diet whilst on a fab yoga retreat in Majorca. The food was amazing and the yoga lead was an Ayurvedic practitioner who suggested I try being vegan for three months and see if it helped. I started and never stopped! I’d already become dairy intolerant, and had been a pescatarian since the age of 15, so becoming vegan just meant no eggs or fish!
How did you find the transition?
I thought it would be really hard, but it was actually really easy, and I found I rediscovered a love to food (and creating in the kitchen). More to follow on that in the recipe series, but as a taster I like to try to work out how best to create something, but within the limitations of my dietary needs. For instance, you can easily rustle up a similar dish to carbonara, using smoked tofu, mushrooms, peas, Oatly cream, Dijon mustard and lots of nutritional yeast and black pepper – very tasty I assure you!
I was really fortunate with the timing of becoming vegan, as it coincided with a Suffolk Vegan group being launched, via Facebook, but with face-to-face meet-ups, so I was able to quickly learn so much about what being vegan meant, and why people do it, as well as make some great friends (who I am in no doubt will be lifelong connections).
How has local veganism influenced you?
I started to really think about the ethics of eating animal products and the environmental impact of the animal industry. It is the latter that has really grabbed me – I’ve been keen on reducing my impact on the planet for some time, and being vegan was a natural fit.
I’m really not a fan of processed vegan products, probably the most processed thing I buy is tofu (love the smoked ones); with digestive problems, you start to realise how much rubbish goes into processed items (so much talk now about the negative effects of ultra-processed foods really resonates with me). The challenge for me is really about eating out at all: saying you are vegan and the only options being heavily processed meat substitutes – definitely not for me!
How do you approach veganism with others?
When I started ‘being a vegan’, I guess I was quite open and wanted to let others know what I was learning, feeling it was a message that needed to be shared.
But over time, I have mellowed, and do what I can, where it feels right, to pass the message on, but be kind about doing so – we are all on a journey aren’t we? And my passion is definitely the environmental side of things – I will admit to not being a pure vegan, but always consider what I am doing from a moral perspective and the impact that is having on this lovely planet of ours.
What does it mean to be part of the SCC Vegan Staff Network?
It is great to be part of a like-minded group of people, again all on their own journey of exploration; debates and challenge are great, in a safe, supportive environment where we can all learn and grow.