Photo credit Jayda Kechour
Where does food come from?
For most, the answer would be the grocery store; but for senior Sustainability major Jayda Kechour, food is more than a box of cereal on aisle six.
Kechour — an animal lover who was already conflicted about eating animals — drew the line and became a vegetarian, a person with a meat-free diet, when she bit into a McDonald’s chicken nugget and found a bone in it.
“That’s when the images, the horrific images, came in my head about how the whole food processes from a nonhuman creature to arriving on your plate,” Kechour said.
Kechour’s further journey to veganism — not consuming any animal products — took her years to develop. It dates back to her childhood family gatherings in Rancho Cucamonga, California, filled with her Teta’s — grandmother in Arabic — hearty, homemade, halal meals, following Islamic law. Her favorite dish of her Teta’s was lentils, yogurt and pita bread.
Her Teta would tend to a bountiful garden of jasmine, figs, lemons, mint and rosemary, and walk to the farmer’s market daily for fresh produce.
“How thankful, blessed, privileged I was to be able to have an auntie and a Teta who was so connected with the art of cooking and going in the market and getting the food and preparing those meals and using the ingredients from her garden,” Kechour said.
Once she was in high school, Kechour started exploring processed food and its effects on the body. Kechour became a vegan for a short period of time but reverted back to being a vegetarian, then an omnivore — a diet of plants and animals — because she was not properly nourished. But she said this perplexed her morals.
“I started to eat everything, but then that was just even more confusing for me,” Kechour said. “But I wasn’t eating what I wanted to eat, which was difficult and emotionally stressful because I would feel guilty and angry and sad.”
Now in a healthy relationship with her diet, Kechour said taking classes with Christopher Doran, a Sustainability and Religion professor, set off her moral compass and revived her appreciation for her Teta.
“I feel like Dr. Doran had truly grasped those feelings I had deep in me and reaffirmed everything I felt,” Kechour said.
Kechour credited Doran with teaching her about Christians treating food with care, knowing where food comes from and who grows it, and considering the nature and the health of nonhuman creatures.
“I want to know the person growing it,” Kechour said. “But I want to know that the people or animals are being treated with dignity and respect and love and care.”
After listening to Pepperdine alumna Kacie Scherler-Abney and her husband Zach speak in one of her classes, Kechour realized her mission in life is to become a regenerative farmer. On her future “sanctuary” of rescued farm animals, Kechour said she envisions having a vegan farm-to-table restaurant called Route to Root.
“This is making my heart pound,” Kechour said. “This gives me goosebumps. This is deeper, this is divine. This is my calling.”
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