TORONTO - The benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle are being promoted in some schools and among young people, says a spokesperson for the Toronto Vegetarian Association.
"When we are manning booths at events we see kids coming to us to learn about vegetarianism and how to go about it," says Mishka Alarcon, special events co-ordinator for the 1,300-member association which was founded in 1945.
"The kids tell us that some schools even have meat-free weeks to reduce the students' carbon footprint," she says. "It's interesting that some schools are supporting these types of initatives as well."
Alarcon says that interest in vegetarianism is growing, especially among people who are trying to reduce their intake of meat.
"We are letting people know that a vegetarian diet is also great for their health and prevents or reverses conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, prostate and colon cancer," she says.
From Sept. 11 to 13, the association will hold its 25th annual Vegetarian Food Fair. The event will be held at the Harbourfront Centre. Last year it attracted more than 17,000 visitors. Today it is regarded as the largest event of its kind in North America, says Alarcon.
The fair will host cooking demonstrations and talks. It provides nutritional information, upcoming vegetarian events and listing of the 70 vegetarian restaurants in Toronto, a city of 2.5 million, second only to New York City with over three times the population which has 117 vegetarian restaurants.
With more than 100 exhibitors, the fair also plans presentations by vegetarian doctors, nutritionists, athletes and cookbook authors.
Among speakers will be Brenda Davis of Kelowna, B.C., author of "Becoming Vegetarian," and Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of California who wrote "The Joy of Vegan Baking."
Also addressing the fair is Gene Baur, the president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, N.Y. His organization works to rescue sick, abandoned and abused animals from farms, stockyards and slaughterhouses.
Alarcon says another reason for the prominence of vegetarian food in Toronto is the city's multicultural character. This year's food fair will feature vegetarian dishes from around the world at the World Cafe, including Mexican, Indian, Chinese and Italian.