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Stacey Hardman, center, her son Todd Ashley and daughter Raven Ashley were celebrating the Chiefs’ win over the Greenbay Packers during Hardman’s “KC Girl on the Move” vegan cooking show. Sabrina Fountain, at right, was the videographer.

Special to The Star

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First, Stacey Hardman stopped eating pork.

Then she gave up beef. Turkey and chicken followed, and then, finally, dairy products.

It’s been two years since Hardman went vegan in an effort to get healthy.

Now, she’s using social media to show people, in Kansas City and beyond, the joys of plant-based eating.

“Food shapes how you think,” Hardman said. “Whatever you put into your system, it is a different way you are throughout the day.”

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A family sing-along was part of the “KC Girl on the Move” live cooking show. Stacey Hardman, center, and her kids Todd and Raven Ashley helped with commentary and cooking. Roy Inman Special to The Star

Think of how you feel when you eat something sugary, Hardman tells her audience. Or how you feel when you eat a number three at McDonald’s. She invites them to tune into their bodies, beckoning them to notice what meals make them feel sluggish and what meals energize them.

“Start paying attention to your body because your body talks to you,” Hardman said. “It talks and I want people to start listening to their bodies before they get sick.”

On the Facebook page KC Girl on the Move, Hardman goes live every week, clad in Chiefs gear, usually with her two daughters. In some episodes, her son or grandchildren join her in the kitchen.

“KC girl on the move,” Hardman sings, kicking off the show. Harmonizing, her daughters respond: “What’s on your mind?”

There, they share beginner vegan recipes with her 1,000-plus followers. She hopes to put out a cookbook of her recipes by the end of the year.

The biggest misconception people have about vegan food? That it’s nasty, Hardman said.

But not only is she proving them wrong — she’s changing their minds.

Jackfruit barbecue nachos. Lasagna soup. Carrot bacon. Quiche. Sushi.

Name a dish, and Hardman has its vegan alternative.

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Hardman’s recipe for her Sunday evening segment was for homemade tomato soup, using heirloom tomatoes. Roy Inman Special to The Star

Under the moniker “She’s Vegan Candies,” you can find Hardman at pop-up events selling her signature ginger and turmeric cookies or her special tonic, made of turmeric and ginger root, black pepper, cayenne and lemon.

“We want you to be healthy from the inside out,” she reminds her online audience. “You do not need to be vegan to eat vegan food.”

But KC Girl on the Move is about more than physical health.

Following the philosophy that food shapes thought, Hardman weaves thought-provoking conversations into her content. She’ll talk about red flags in relationships. Or she’ll talk about womanhood, fatherhood or family.

Thinking and cooking, she said, “go hand in hand because they determine how your day is going to be.”

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Sabrina Fountain was the videographer for the KC Girl on the Move livestream show Roy Inman Special to The Star

Before going vegan, Hardman was on the verge of diabetes. Instead, she said, she’s escaped the realm of being even prediabetic.

As a Black woman, she’s been galvanized by the disproportionate rates of heart disease and diabetes among Black people, who often receive lower-quality health care and are less likely to receive preventive medical treatments than white people.

Having spent many years in the health care industry as a certified nurse assistant and a phlebotomist, Hardman saw these disparities firsthand.

“Being a diabetic, having heart disease — we just think that this runs in the family … and I’m gonna have it forever. No, that’s not true,” Hardman said. “It’s important for me to share this information with Black people so they can understand.”

During her time in health care, Hardman bagged bodies, took them to morgues and put them in coolers. That experience of connecting with patients and then grappling with their deaths helped shape her advocacy for health and wellness.

“I want to get people to say, ‘I want to be in charge of what goes into my system. I want to be more healthy from the inside out,’” Hardman said. “‘I don’t want to rely on medicines to make me well. I want to rely on fruits and vegetables and different herbs.’”

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Stacey Hardman likes to add ingredients according to taste, not according to measurement. Roy Inman Special to The Star

Despite the perception that vegan food is expensive, Hardman is adamant about what you can achieve by simply slow cooking beans and seasoning them.

“What’s expensive is those doctors, that medicine. That’s expensive,” she said.

Fans tell her that their skin has cleared up, their muscles are no longer stiff or their circulation has improved.

“I want Kansas City Girl on the Move to be a representation of what you can do when you want to make good choices. It’s going to change the course of your whole entire family generation,” Hardman said.

Family members Hardman never expected to be open to the idea of plant-based cooking are trying her food. It’s trickling down to her sister, nieces, children and grandchildren.

“Other people are seeing me, and if I keep on doing what I’m doing, then other people will come along as well. So that excites me — that makes me happy that people want to know. They want to change,” she said.

Hardman maintains that knowledge alone isn’t power. Amending the adage, she said, “Applied knowledge is power.”

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