By Alyssa Aldrete
“I’m sorry but I don’t have any more food to give you,” Chef Leah Malveaux announced to a long line of hungry customers waiting outside of the bright green Kick Ass Vegan food truck. “We’ve sold out, but thank you for waiting for our food!”
Kick Ass Vegan was the last in a sea of vendors to sell out of food at the Vegan Depot, held Sept. 19 at Corona City Park.
Although the hungry customers may have missed the opportunity to try some vegan comfort food, those who remained in line flocked to the Organic Junkie vendor booth, whose founder saw another sold out vendor as nothing but a success.
“This city has always been so good to me,” Christina Bohannon, owner and founder of Organic Junkie and Vegan Depot said. “I feel indebted to this community.”
Bohannon, whose professional background is primarily in real estate, took a chance on building her businesses from the ground up in order to fulfill both a need for her community and a promise to herself. Bohannon shared that a switch to a plant-based diet got her ill father off most of his medications before his passing.
When her father passed, she looked around Corona and saw a lack of wholesome vegan food options, and felt it was time to share what she knew.
Now, what began as just 15 vendors lined up outside of a local bar, has blossomed into a bi-monthly event that has plant-based food and sustainability-practicing vendors lined up for the chance to vend.
“What Christina has built from the ground up is amazing, not only for vendors but for our local community,” Emily Camp, owner of Camp House Suds said. “Farmer’s markets bring together citizens of all backgrounds and experiences, and because my business’s focus is in the vegan and sustainable niche, what better way to learn about my target audience than being able to talk directly with them.”
This fusion of local farmers and small-business owners seemed to be a success for all. With the parkway lined with everything from major vegan business Plant Power Fast Food, to plant-based boba business NovaBoba, to vegan cork “leather” maker Dzolik, there was a plethora of nuanced products to go around.
Though many vendors sold out of items or food an hour before the posted end time, every open booth had people lined up in front of them, each person eager to take away something – be it products, or just knowledge – that would broaden their understanding of veganism just a little more than it was before they stepped onto 6th Street that afternoon.
Christine Dias, owner of jewelry business The Higher Channel, was thankful to be a part of an event so committed to promoting a vegan and sustainability-practicing lifestyle. She pointed out that an open event like Vegan Depot is inviting to those curious about these concepts and those already committed to these causes.
“It’s good to give people a chance to try vegan food for the first time and it’s a good way to implement a vegan meal into someone’s diet,” Dias said. “Even if it’s only once a week, it would still help the environment.”
The event’s success showed that, with a strong vision and help from the community, the daunting task of spreading knowledge and creating change can prove possible. Bohannon is currently working with the mayor of Corona to make the City Park the permanent home of Vegan Depot.
“My mission is to establish a stronger vegan presence in the Inland Empire, starting in Corona,” Bohannon said. “I’m not sure if anyone noticed but I had Organic Junkie open, a booth as a vendor and was making sure everything was ready to go for Vegan Depot, which included dealing with the Health Department and agriculture officials. If I can manage to do those three things well and find the right team, then maybe someday we can expand.”
For now, Riverside City College students are in luck, as we need only take a short drive down the 91 freeway to get a taste of plant-based greatness.
The next Vegan Depot will be held in Corona City Park on Oct. 3.