Hundreds of plant eaters packed themselves into the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center this past weekend for the 21st Annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival.
Organized by the Boston Vegetarian Society, the yearly festival attracts attendees from all over the Northeast to come together to get a taste of what’s new and fresh in the vegetarian community.
The festival’s main attraction was the variety of vegetarian and vegan food vendors showcasing a wide array of products.
Festival goers were treated to a series of presentations by esteemed speakers on health and nutrition, many of whom discussed the various benefits of a plant-based diet.
Organized by the Boston Vegetarian Society—a volunteer-based nonprofit organization instituted in 1986—the event is the longest-running vegetarian food festival in the country and is a highly-anticipated event for the vegetarian community in Boston and beyond.
The festival featured award-winning chefs and cookbook authors showing off their culinary talents by teaching their recipes and offering free samples for tasting.
This opportunity also allowed visitors to learn about how they can live in greater harmony with animals and the environment.
This year, the vibrant gymnasium was packed with an eclectic mix of local small-scale vendors and nationwide commercial food producers that made up the event. The festival also aimed to raise awareness for the protection of animals and the environment by featuring clothing brands, awareness groups, and organic cosmetics companies that actively support the sustainable and vegetarian way of life.
At the forefront of the festival were animal advocacy groups who hoped to get their message out about the cruelty of farming animals.
One of these groups was Mercy for Animals, the world’s leading farmed animal rights group. Marcia Schloss, a representative of the organization, explained that she hoped the organization’s presence at the festival would be recognized.
“Our ultimate goal is to stop people from eating farmed animals,” Schloss said.
Undoubtedly, the most popular attraction of the festival is the famous Vegan Treats Bakery. Named one of the top-10 best bakeries in the world by Departures.com, the Vegan Treats booth draws long lines of Bostonians, vegans and omnivores alike every year that stretch out of the athletics center and down Malcolm X Blvd.
Based out of Pennsylvania, the bakery serves up decadent vegan desserts, all while advocating for the rights of animals.
Attendees try to arrive at the festival early enough to grab a box of Vegan Treats’ highly sought-after doughnuts or a batch of their classic cannolis.
Another popular exhibitor is the Jackfruit Company, a convenience food producer gaining popularity within the vegan community. Lindsay Waller, the company’s sales manager for the East, shared that the company was extremely motivated to participate in the festival this year.
“We hope that it spreads the word about sustainable harvesting, and how much of a miracle crop jackfruit is,” Waller said. “We look to transform healthy eating and introduce consumers to a gluten-free soy-free meat alternative.”
Waller also discussed the business benefits of being featured in the festival, underscoring how exposure to such a large and diverse group of visitors could ultimately help increase the company’s distribution.
Shuffling through mazes of people at the festival would be a unique experience for any outsider of the vegetarian community. During the event, it becomes commonplace to overhear conversations between strangers bonding over the fact that they could never go back to eating meat.
As you make your way from stall to stall, you go from sampling luxurious handmade soaps to tasting authentic home-cooked Indian dishes, all free of animal byproducts.
Ultimately, visitors leave learning something new about the mean most people put into their bodies each day.
The festival not only serves as a forum to raise awareness to non-vegetarian eaters, but a place where vegetarians and vegans can eat food without the worry that it may contain animal products.
Organizers of the event hoped to get the message out about moving away from eating animal products, and moving toward cruelty-free natural foods. Boston local Shandi Foger shared why the festival is important to her.
“I’m here to support the local vegetarian community, listen to the excellent speakers, and meet up with my vegan friends,” Foger said.
Featured Image by William Batchelor