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Life and Religion

Free lunch for federal employees at vegan café
Veltree eases sting of government shutdown
Published Saturday, January 26, 2019 8:19 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

On the menu at Veltree vegan soul food café: Vegan fried chicken.

Charlotteans cannot reopen the federal government, but they can support those suffering from its closure.

Velvet Jacobs and her wife Treona Kelty-Jacobs, owners of Veltree, a vegan soul food café (7945 North Tryon St. Suite 110), are providing free lunch for federal employees with a valid identification during the partial government shutdown. They intend to continue until things reopen.

No entity employs more Americans than the federal government, which has been partially shuttered for more than a month – the longest government shutdown in history. The average federal worker has missed approximately $5,000 in pay thus far, according to a New York Times analysis.

“Chef Velvet woke up and said, ‘listen, we need to do something,’” said Kelty-Jacobs on day 32 of the shutdown. “Sometimes you just feel helpless. If you are not on the front lines you feel like, ‘well, what can I do?’ especially because we are always here in the café. She said, ‘let’s go ahead and provide meals to government employees,’ because so many of them support us.

“We have only been open for four months, and we sell out every day. It’s our duty to say, ‘listen, you came out to support us, so let us support you, even those who are not vegan.’ This is not just for our customers. This is for everyone. If you are affected by this government shutdown, you can get a meal on us. We feel you. We understand, and we empathize with your pain.”

The couple moved from Washington, D.C., last year to Charlotte in order to open Veltree in September.

“We have a lot of friends and family who are affected by the shutdown in the D.C./Maryland area,” Kelty-Jacobs said. “Whatever you can do, that’s what you should be doing. There is no excuse. Period. If you can reach back and help one person, then do that.”

Veltree offers plant-based nutrition with a soul food twist. While the menu includes classics such as chic’n and waffles and fried drumsticks, they do not use animal products.

“It is the funniest story,” Kelty-Jacobs said. “We came here to visit friends, and we were starving. We Googled ‘soul food vegan,’ because our specialty is soul food vegan, and nothing came up in Charlotte. We started asking people, and they said, ‘no, there’s no soul food vegan restaurants here.’ In D.C. Velvet had a restaurant with her family that was a soul food vegan place. We said, ‘OK. We are going to move here and do it.’ There was no big plan. It was by faith.”

The owners’ goal is to offer better alternatives for the body and the environment.

“It’s that food that you yearn for, but you feel like, ‘oh I can’t get that, because I’m vegan,’” Kelty-Jacobs said. “We do a fried chicken drumstick that everyone is raving about, so now we have this chicken bucket. It tastes and reminds you of what you used to have without harming animals, without harming your body.”
What goes into fried chicken when it isn’t the bird itself?

“We have two different versions of chicken,” Kelty-Jacobs said. “One is made of amaranth, quinoa and a little bit of soy—soy is the binder. The drumstick is a soy base, and it has a bamboo stick in the middle. It is really about the seasoning. That is what gives you that flavor. Chef Velvet is known for being able to season the food so that it tastes like soul food. You can cook plant-based all day long, but if you don’t have that seasoning, you don’t have the soul food.”

Hours: Closed Sunday and Monday; open Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-8 p.m.; Saturday 12-8 p.m.

Follow on Instagram: @veltreevegan


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