Veggie Mijas Founder Amy Quichiz Turned A Vegan Potluck Into A Full-Blown Movement

It all started with an Instagram account.

veggie mijas amy quichiz

Like so many viral movements in the 21st century, this one began on Instagram. As a college student in 2018, fledgling vegan Amy Quichiz created a small food-focused account, Veggie Mijas, initially for posting and sharing plant-based recipes to help her navigate her newly adopted lifestyle. “I wanted to create a place where folks of color can speak about veganism without having to go through so many turmoils like I did when I was navigating these spaces,” says the writer and activist to TZR, referring to BIPOC communities, who have historically been excluded from the trendy vegan movement that often caters and markets to privileged white people. “I was having a hard time adjusting to what veganism looked like for our culture.”

Fast forward some four years (and some 31,000 followers) later, and that small IG platform reserved for vegan recipe-swapping has evolved into a full-blown food justice collective uniting thousands across the country. And while such rapid growth was not the initial intention for Quichiz, she’s taken each pivot for Veggie Mijas with stride and embraced veganism as not just a diet but her life’s passion.

Indeed, at its core and earliest days, the culture of veganism has neglected and discredited non-white communities in its marketing and representation, despite the fact that many of them have had plant-based ideologies ingrained in their cultures (Hinduism, Buddhism, Rastafarianism, and Black Hebrew Israelites, to name a very few) for years, centuries even.

There’s also the issue of the impact animal products often have on the environment — and, one can’t approach the topic of environmental justice without also discussing racism. In addition to the abuse of animals, these corporation-run factories and farms that produce high-scale animal products are also extending this exploitation and damage to the workers, who are primarily people of color. “These conversations always lead me to the same conclusion: There’s a pipeline from beginner vegan to environmental justice advocate,” says writer Noella Williams in a February 2022 Healthline article. “But this pipeline often isn’t recognized by white vegans, who are more likely to value animal rights over the lives of Latinx farmworkers struggling for fair wages or Black people suffering from food apartheid.”

It was that very pipeline that took Quichiz on her own advocacy journey, which started out as a move for animal rights but then pivoted to include those of humanity as well. “I guess my shift of conversation truly changed once I came home and I had to explain to my parents why veganism is important to me and explain to them not just the injustices of the animals, but also the people within the system of oppression,” says the NYC native, who adds that she learned the full extent of the injustices within the vegan movement in reading A. Breeze Harper’s book Sistah Vegan. “So it was hard in the sense of challenging [questions like] What is culture? What is tradition?”

It didn’t take long for Quichiz’s small Instagram account of vegan recipes to take on new meaning, eventually becoming a vehicle to change the narrative around plant-based living. The college student (who has since graduated and recently earned her Master of Arts degree in ethics, peace, and human rights) saw a true need for accessibility as the writing on the wall (or, more accurately, in Sistah Vegan) made it clear that food injustice was alive and well. “I think one of the things that really stood out to me [in the book] was that nothing really is a choice and everything is done on purpose when it comes to food,” she explains. “If we even look at the map of brown and Black-predominant schools, you can see that there's a bodega near every school or a Popeye's or a fast food chain in general. That is not by choice, right? Because when we look at predominantly white schools they don't have that same kind of dynamic that we did growing up.”

With this a-ha moment, Quichiz made it her mission to ensure a nutrient-rich, plant-based lifestyle could be accessible to all, especially people of color. She wanted to create community events and gatherings that would bring people together in safe place to talk about food justice and social justice issues in general. And while swapping recipes served in planting a seed amongst non-white vegans, Quichiz said she noticed that the people within this network were craving what she was: community. As engagement increased on the IG platform amongst her plant-based followers, “we got a bunch of feedback saying, ‘We want to meet in person. How do we do this?’” recalls the founder.

So, just like her social media platform, Quichiz started small, with a March 2018 event that everyone could relate to: a potluck. A Veggie Mijas follower offered up her home in the Bronx to serve as a venue. “I opened the doors, never had been to this girl's house before, and there were already 35 people in there,” recalls Quichiz. “Nobody knew who I was and I think that was so beautiful. Because everybody was truly just there for vegan food and [to meet] people that were vegan or people that wanted to be vegan or learn about veganism, and everyone was having such a great time.”

As it happens, this event led to a domino effect of sorts, with more and more Veggie Mijas followers requesting potlucks and gatherings in their own cities across the U.S. “It wasn't only about creating these events and meeting people,” says Quichiz. “It was actually about community service. So, from there, it just sparked tons of conversations and ideas [on how to do that].” From events centered on self-care and crafting (together!), book clubs, open mics, guided meditations, and group hikes, Veggie Mijas promotes community and thoughtful interaction in a variety of ways.

In the last four years, Veggie Mijas has expanded significantly from a social media platform for vegans to a community for BIPOC as well as the LGBTQIA+ community, which Quichiz explains was also an organic evolution. “[Veggie Mijas] was always queer because I'm queer and all the people that came into organizing knew that so they felt comfortable,” explains Quichiz. “I would say that the shift between it being a college platform to now involving a lot of communities was because of my own journey and because of what I went through and what I needed. When I was in college it was a platform to get me started with veganism. Then I graduated and I was like, ‘Well, I don't need this anymore, I need people.’”

With 11 active chapters across the country, Veggie Mijas’ network has spread exponentially, as has its mission. In addition to educating people on veganism with its now signature potlucks, the collective has become an advocacy arm in its own right, hosting discussion panels, community outreach projects, and food workshops. “[Chapter leaders] meet once a month to talk about what is going on in our communities,” explains Quichiz. “[We discuss] how we can be helping people, what are the challenges that we have. [...] Our number one goal isn't to expand, it's just to provide resources to the people that need it and want to help their community and serve.”