About Us

Get to know the team behind DC Veg Restaurant Week!

Dr. Oye Owolewa is the U.S. Representative for Washington D.C. In his role Rep Oye is a leading spokesperson for DC Statehood, while also championing issues like access to healthy and sustainable food, educating our youth, and reinvestment in black business. Dr. Owolewa is a steward of public health as a pharmacist who has helped vaccinate us against Covid and worked to prevent drug overdoses. With roots in Nigeria, Oye previously represented residents of Ward 8 as a Commissioner in ANC 8E.

Chef Spike is known for his appearances on Bravo’s Top Chef and The Food Network’s Iron Chef America and Beat Bobby Flay. Having opened several restaurants around DC and chairing the DC Food Policy Council, Chef Spike most recently opened PLNT Burger with Seth Goldman to serve the DMV with delicious American classics that are better for people & planet.


Brianne Nadeau is the DC Councilmember representing Ward 1. She has advanced sustainable food systems in DC by co-introducing the Green Food Purchasing Act, DC’s law to reduce the carbon footprint of government procured food 25% by 2030. Nadeau supports DC Veg Restaurant Week because “As someone who almost exclusively eats vegetarian food when eating out, I’m thrilled by the many delicious options that have emerged here in the District. I’m excited to lift up these restaurants as part of DC Veg Restaurant Week.” Councilmember Nadeau chairs the Human Services Committee and has advocated for affordable housing and homeless services, the environment, public safety, and nutrition.

Photo by Barbara L. Salisbury

Mary Cheh is the DC Councilmember representing Ward 3. Since taking office in 2007, she has introduced a litany of bills to advance sustainable and equitable food systems in DC, such as the Healthy Students Amendment Act, the Healthy Hospitals Act, and the Green Food Purchasing Act. On DC Veg Restaurant Week, Councilmember Cheh said “I’m excited to see DC businesses leading the way in showcasing healthy and sustainable plant-based cooking in such a fun and celebratory way”. Councilmember Cheh is the Chair of the Committee on Transportation & the Environment, and a tenured constitutional law and criminal procedure professor at the George Washington University Law School. Cheh has championed legislation to protect the environment, improve the health of District residents, and ensure good governance. Over the last ten years, Councilmember Cheh has introduced over 400 separate bills and led five major Council investigations. Mary is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Douglass College and received her law degrees from Rutgers and Harvard universities.

Organizing Team

Photo by Lauren Newman

Max Broad is the president of DC Voters for Animals Ed Fund, the lead organizer of DC Veg Restaurant Week. In this capacity Broad seeks to strengthen ties between DC residents and our animal friends. With a background in climate advocacy, Broad has previously worked for the National Wildlife Federation, as a contractor with the Department of Energy, AmeriCorps NCCC (where he was recognized as Corps Member of the Year), and as a Lincoln Assassination tour guide. Broad has a Masters in Environmental Science and Management from UC Santa Barbara and loves vegan burritos.

Giorgio von Horoch is a new vegan/animal rights activist and software developer. Ever since he became vegan, he has been looking for opportunities to apply his programming skills to such an important cause, like animal rights. DC Veg Restaurant Week was the perfect opportunity for him to do that and the beginning of his journey to code for the animals.

Elissa Free is a co-president of the Veg Society of DC and serves as a Happy Cow Ambassador for DC. She has been a vegan since 2008 and was a vegetarian for many years before that. Her professional background is in journalism and communications, including jobs at CBS News, CNN and Georgetown Law. She lives in Washington DC with her husband, two cats and a dog. She has one daughter who is vegan and lives in Durango, Colorado. 

Mary Beth Olson is the founder of MBO Media and a seasoned publicist of more than 20 years, including representing top brands and celebrities in New York City for nine years. Since starting her own agency based in the Washington, DC area, Mary Beth has followed her passion to promote plant-based brands that are helping to make the world a better place.

Elijah N’Kai is a designer from the East Coast of the U.S. He’s a mega-fan of plant based cuisine, with a soft spot for the many veg dishes of India. Often times, he can be found either perfecting a recipe or failing at it superbly. All around great guy. 10/10 would recommend. Eli definitely didn’t write this.



Laura Lee Cascada is a Virginia-based writer and activist who has led environmental and animal protection campaigns for over a decade. She is now the Campaigns Director for the Better Food Foundation, spearheading the innovative food strategy DefaultVeg and working to create a more resilient food system. Laura is the founder of Plight of the Hermies, a grassroots campaign advocating for wild hermit crab freedom, as well as The Every Animal Project, a collection of photographs and awe-inspiring stories of animals around the globe. She published her debut novel, Dellie’s Run, in June 2019. Laura has a master’s degree in environmental policy from Johns Hopkins University. 

Donors and Partner Orgs

Founded in 1927, The Veg Society of the District of Columbia (VSDC) is the nation’s oldest continuously operating 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization promoting an all-plant diet and vegan lifestyle through education, community-building, and social activities throughout the DC metro area.

VSDC believes in treating all people, animals, and the planet with respect and kindness. We are committed to creating a more compassionate and caring world. We do this by creating a community of like-minded people who are on the path to an all-plant diet and vegan lifestyle. Whoever you are, and wherever you are on this path, we offer resources and fellowship to support you. We make your journey easier, more enjoyable and meaningful.

VSDC. Creating communities. For your health, the animals, and the planet.

The Healthier, Greener, Kinder Foundation is a philanthropic foundation established to support innovative projects that will help to make the world a healthier, greener, kinder place. The foundation was created by Leigh Scott and Mark Cohen, a married couple who follow a vegan lifestyle and believe deeply in the inherent worth and dignity of every being. During its first two years of operation, the Foundation has awarded approximately $63,000 in grants and donations. The grants have supported a wide variety of projects, including parrot nest box monitoring in Nicaragua, enhancement of community gardening programs, rescue and medical care for homeless animals, inga row cropping in Cameroon, distribution of coats to children in need, purchase of beds for an immigrant family, and publication of a mindfulness book for children. 

VegFund empowers vegan advocates worldwide through grant funding and supporting effective outreach that inspires people to choose and maintain a vegan lifestyle. VegFund provides grant funding for food sampling, film screenings, vegfests and health fairs, conferences, and learning events. Our organization has supported vegan activists in 76 countries throughout the world. DC Veg Restaurant Week was sponsored in part by VegFund.

DefaultVeg, a program of the Better Food Foundation, is a simple approach to food: make plant-based options the default and give people the choice to opt in to meals with animal products. Whether at the dinner table or in a dining hall, how food is presented plays a big role in what we choose to eat. Making plant-based food the default is a simple “nudge” that motivates us to choose more sustainable options, without taking away anyone’s choice. DefaultVeg is inclusive, reduces your carbon footprint, and increases the healthfulness of your meals, while reshaping what diners think of as a “normal” meal. Join the movement for a sustainable and resilient new normal.

Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) is the nation’s first animal rights organization in the United States dedicated to ending the use of animals for food. Through legacy programs like MeatOut and World Day for Farmed Animals (WDFA), to newer, innovative programming, demonstrations, educational videos, and inspiring events, FARM has led the way for more than four decades in standing up for animals. To get involved, visit farmusa.org.

Animal Outlook is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) animal advocacy organization based in Washington, DC and Los Angeles, CA. Our mission: Working today to build a better tomorrow for all animals. We’re strategically challenging the status quo of animal agribusiness through undercover investigations, legal advocacy, corporate and food system reform, and empowering everyone to choose vegan. Learn more at animaloutlook.org

Plant Dining Partnerships provides resources to increase plant-based food options throughout foodservice industries in all communities, emphasizing food swamps, highlighting competitive price, taste and convenience opportunities.

Jewish Veg is an international 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose mission is to encourage and help Jews to embrace plant-based diets as an expression of the Jewish values of compassion for animals, concern for health, and care for the environment.

MBO Media is a public relations firm with an extensive background in animal advocacy. Their work includes publicity, branding, and media training. Founding Principle Mary Beth Olson has generated pieces in lifestyle magazines such as InStyleVOGUEHarper’s BazaarVanity Fair and ALLURE as well as the nation’s top newspapers and TV outlets such as The New York TimesUSA TodayThe Wall Street JournalABC NewsThe Daily Show and more. Mary Beth has a proven track record for generating high impact press coverage on a local and national scale. 

DC Voters for Animals Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that seeks to strengthen the link between DC residents and other species through events, research, and education. Since our founding in 2020, we have advocated for non-violent solutions to human-wildlife conflict with deer in the DMV, running programming with DMV youth, and improving food systems with the DC Good Food Purchasing Program Coalition.