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Thousands show up for Veggie Fest

Comm 260: Journalism
Nicole Marden
Students identify and cover "beats" for news and feature stories. Most, but not all, are campus-oriented. Each has a thematic focus (e.g., health care, public safety, student activities, dorm life), with clearly identified informants who are cultivated for story ideas and used as sources.

Beat features explore a small slice of a larger story by painting a vivid portrait of a person, an organization or institution, or a particular activity or trend, and in so doing give us a deeper grasp of the larger story. Students follow Associated Press style and are asked to produce error-free copy for publication in campus or other newspapers.

BOSTON (Oct. 22)—Roxbury Community College buzzed with activity Saturday as thousands of people attended the 12th Annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival.

The festival, organized by the Boston Vegetarian Society (BVS), featured more than 100 vendors and exhibitors as well as nationally-acclaimed experts on nutrition and vegetarian lifestyles.

The exhibits ranged from vegetarian food products to authors on vegetarianism and organizations focused on animal rights and protection. All of the food companies promoting their products offered free samples.

Whole Foods Market, Moosewood, VegNews, Tom's of Maine, and Tribe Mediterranean were popular exhibits, offering free product samples and pamphlets of information about their company's contribution to the vegetarian lifestyle.

GREY2KUSA, a national non-profit organization that seeks to abolish greyhound racing, asked festival-goers to sign a petition to discontinue dog racing in Massachusetts. In addition to running an exhibit booth inside the gymnasium, GREY2KUSA representatives greeted people at the door with one of their adopted greyhounds.

The Vegetarian Food Festival was also a venue for local vegetarian and vegan restaurants to build up their client base. Grasshopper and T.J. Scallywaggle's from Allston and Veggie Planet of Harvard Square offered tastings of some of their most popular dishes. Dishes included spiced coconut pudding, tofu stir-fry, and three bean salad.

"We know from past experiences that this event will be a launching pad for small vegan businesses," said Evelyn Kimber, president of the Boston Vegetarian Society and a Simmons College alum.

Several authors also took advantage of the festival to promote their books. Among them was chef Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, whose latest book, The Joy of Vegan Baking: Compassionate Cooks' Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets, made its East Coast debut at the festival on Saturday. Patrick-Goudreau was on hand to sell autographed copies of her latest release.

"I'm really excited about the debut today," said Patrick-Goudreau. "It's good timing, right before the holidays and everyone here is a great audience."

Patrick-Goudreau is the founder and director of the California-based organization Compassionate Cooks, which advocates vegetarianism. She also does weekly podcasts and is a columnist for VegNews magazine.

Patrick-Goudreau was raised eating meat but converted to vegetarianism nine years ago. "When I was awakened to the animal suffering, I knew I couldn't eat meat anymore," she said.

Although most festival attendees were practicing vegetarians, festival organizers said they welcomed anyone interested in learning more.

"I'm not interested in becoming a vegetarian, but some of the food here has been good. I can't tell the difference," said Larry Pelosi of Chelmsford. Pelosi attended the festival with his wife who "dabbles" in vegetarianism.

Presentations aimed to educate vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, according to organizers. Jeffrey Novick, a licensed nutritionist, discussed the differences between "health foods" and healthy foods, telling the crowd what to look for when choosing groceries, all the while keeping them laughing and hanging on his every word.

"Do not ever believe what's on the front of the box," Novick said repeatedly to the crowd, prompting more laughter.

With seven presenters and speakers, festival attendees had numerous opportunities to learn about the lifestyle of vegetarians. But this is not the only event organized by the Boston Vegetarian Society.

The society, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, organizes educational, outreach, and community-building programs each month, though the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival is its largest—and one of the largest vegetarian events in the world.

Programs during the rest of the year include vegan cooking classes and food testings, outings and activities in the area, and special seminars with national speakers and authors, but none is as well known as the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival.

"Our all-volunteer team of organizers was deeply gratified at the huge turnout of over 10,000 people and the wonderful energy of the whole day," Kimber said.