Vegan advocate Maggie Baird is not only mom to pop sensations Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell, but the founder of Support + Feed, a charity that supports plant-based restaurants and provides food to those in need.
She has also had a glowing acting career, in-between encouraging thousands to go plant-based. Passionate about family, animals, and the climate, Maggie details her vegan journey on the Plant Based News Podcast.
She spoke about social justice, systemic racism in the vegan community, and the importance of educating people about a healthy lifestyle.
Maggie on the PBN Podcast
The episode delves into the following topics:
- 00:03:05 Discovering vegetarian and vegan lifestyles
- 00:06:25 Should we tell children where their food comes from?
- 00:09:08 The challenges of eating healthily in the US
- 00:19:32 Childhood and adolescent interests and ambitions
- 00:24:36 Raising children vegetarian
- 00:28:49 Carnism vs. veganism
- 00:32:32 Billie and Finneas embracing the importance of veganism
- 00:37:58 The US Election
- 00:43:02 Donald Trump, misinformation and conspiracy theories
- 00:48:00 The harmful effects of social media
- 00:50:15 Tips for a happy marriage and a balanced family
- 00:53:22 Finding calm within the pressures and distractions of work and social media
- 00:59:08 Acting achievements
- 01:05:58 Support + Feed
- 01:09:57 The importance for white vegans to be vocal about systemic racism and the Black Lives Matter movement
- 01:13:43 VAAO / They’re Trying To Kill Us
- 01:17:39 Stranded on a desert island
‘Deep personal beliefs’
It is Maggie’s strong beliefs that keep her motivated. Meat is an ‘inedible substance’ for her.
She added: “That comes from a belief. If you do something from a belief that is not strictly related to health – because we are going to be less caring about our health than we are the belief of not being cruel – and, destroying the planet and causing agony and pain and suffering.
“That is pretty easy for me to follow through with. So I don’t find it hard… I have deep personal beliefs about the suffering of animals.”
Maggie Baird’s plant-based story
For Maggie, animals have always been close to her heart. She grew up in Colorado, Denver, and is the daughter of a hunter and fisherman. Processed foods were new and exciting during her childhood, but education around health was scarce, she explains.
However, she remembers never wanting to eat meat. Her parents were concerned for her health since being ‘indoctrinated’ by information spread by the meat and dairy industry.
‘I was apologetic’ about being a vegetarian, she says, ‘it was a fringe thing’, ‘we were seen as annoying’.
Since then, she’s been vegan for over a decade and has gradually introduced a plant-based diet to her family as well. She raised both her children, Finneas and Billie, vegetarian. The pair are now vegan.
Listen to the full podcast episode below
Maggie also shared her family’s experiences of improved health since ditching meat and dairy. With cholesterol problems in her genetics, she says she has to ‘practically not eat’ to secure low levels. A lifelong ‘nightmare’ health problem of her husband Patrick was cured when he gave up dairy. And Billie’s health improved too.
“Isn’t that scary that my parents didn’t know that about themselves? They were eating dairy.”
“It’s such common sense that the thing you put in your body every day all day long is going to have the biggest impact on your health. You eat food all day and yet doctors don’t prescribe that as the thing you should be looking at.”
However, Maggie thinks nutritional education among doctors and in society as a whole needs to be improved.
‘Systemic’ racism and privelege
Online, Maggie is outspoken about racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I was quite shocked, I was naive. I did not realize that there was a part of the vegan world that was not aware of systemic racism and not involved. You cannot separate food insecurity from systemic racism. You can’t separate the climate crisis from systemic racism.
“It is intersectional and it is really important that people start to acknowledge that and speak out about it. People of color, BIPOC communities are vastly over affected by all of these issues and there is white privilege in being vegan. And we do have to acknowledge that.”
Access to fresh produce is one example of why being vegan for some communities is difficult, she explained.
“I think we have a tremendous racism problem in our country. And it’s deeply embedded in our society. People don’t want to be uncomfortable and it’s horrifying to think about the society we’ve participated in. If we don’t acknowledge our own privilege and address the inequities in our society we can’t ever really make ultimate change.”
Support + Feed
Whilst on tour with Billie, the family enjoyed vegan food from a variety of restaurants before it was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon returning home, Maggie felt concerned for both small-scale plant-based businesses as well as people in poverty.
‘I thought, why don’t we just find a way to get food from these plant-based restaurants, and then people could donate and we could take it to people who need the food’, she said.
Within five days, the website was set up and within a week they began delivering food. Support + Feed now stretches over four cities.
She said: “The basic premise was we’d feed people facing food insecurity through plant-based restaurants, helping to keep those restaurants open and addressing the climate crisis. What we realized as we grew is that of course food insecurity… is a horrendous issue in this country.”
This includes a lack of access to healthy food, she added, across BIPOC communities in particular.
The charity has fed over 60,000 people already and has helped look after the small businesses and their employees.
Acting career and inspiring Billie and Finneas
In addition to inspiring her family and building networks of support across the US, Maggie has had a glowing acting career. Moreover, she co-wrote and co-produced an award-winning movie, Life Inside Out. It was ‘a labor of love’ but a high point of her career. And she starred on screen with her son, Finneas.
‘I wanted to give them an example that you could make something happen’, she said. Being an actor is determined by others, but she wanted to prove to her children that they could tell their own stories.
For more information about Support + Feed, visit the website
You can listen to the full podcast episode here