The Maine Animal Coalition’s 12th annual Vegetarian Food Festival on Saturday, June 4, will celebrate going meat-free and give a tip of the hat to a significant group invested in this lifestyle: Millennials.
According to MAC President Beth Gallie, approximately 700 people pack the East End School on Munjoy Hill each year to learn more about veganism and vegetarianism. This year, there will be 30 exhibitors and vendors on site, as well as food (including free ice cream), a raffle and silent auction, and showings of the documentary film “PlantPure Nation” and the television show “Vegan Mashup.”
One of the festival’s biggest draws, however, is its lineup of distinguished speakers. The Portland Press Herald’s “Vegetarian Kitchen” columnist Avery Yale Kamila will be kicking things off at 11:15 a.m., followed by dietician Ginny Kisch Messina at 12:45 p.m. and then Alex Shopov of marine conservation society Sea Shepherd at 2 p.m. Messina will be presenting a lecture called “The 7 Habits of Healthy, Happy Vegans,” while Shopov will discuss veganism as it relates to the rest of the world in his lecture,"Veganism and the Laws of Ecology: The Global Impact of Local Food Choices."
Kamila’s presentation, “It's a Great Time to Be Veg: How Vegans and Vegetarians Are Changing the Way We Eat in Maine and the Nation," will focus on just why it’s easier to be a vegetarian in today’s society.
“Vegetarianism is as old as recorded history and its popularity has waxed and waned over time,” Kamila said. “I'll be talking about why now — 2016 — is one of the best times to be vegetarian. One of the big trends I'll be discussing is the role of young people — so-called Millennials — in reshaping our food landscape. Want to know why restaurants and grocery stores are scrambling to add veg items? Ask a Millennial.”
According to Kamila, who has been a vegetarian for 28 years and a vegan for 25, 6 percent of Millenials report being full-time vegetarians versus just 2 percent of people 65 years and older. In addition, 45 percent of Millenials who are not committed to vegetarian diets eat vegetarian foods regularly, while only 30 percent of people in the older age brackets eat this way regularly.
Kamila said that her decision to stop eating meat came from two things. She grew up on a farm in Litchfield “being served the bodies of the pigs I'd played with and listening to the sad cries of the cows whose infants had been taken from them an hour after birth,” and also later discovered factory farming in high school.
According to Gallie, the majority of the members of the Coalition are ethical vegetarians, like Kamila, meaning that they abstain from eating meat for the animals’ sakes. However, health and global impacts are also factors in many people’s decisions to adopt this new way of living.
“We are also excited about the mounting scientific evidence that being vegan is great for one's health,” Gallie said. “[In addition], a United Nations study found that the meat industry pollutes more than the transportation sector, so going vegan is a great way to curb global warming.”
The festival, Gallie explained, is a great way to bring together a diverse community of people.
“People are vegans/vegetarians for multiple reasons … for their health, for the animals and for the environment,” Gallie said. “So we try to have something for everybody.”
The Vegetarian Festival will be held on Saturday, June 4, from 11:00am to 3:00pm at the East End School, located at 195 North St., Portland. Everything at the festival is free (except lunch), and proceeds from the raffle will go to support the continuation of the event. For more information, visit maineanimalcoalition.org.
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