This weekend, the Peaceful Dumpling team headed to the vegan and vegetarian overload that is NYC Veggie Food Festival 2014. When we got there in the morning, the line already stretched the entire length between 6th and 7th avenues–literally, hundreds of people waiting to get in. After we scooched past for the press pass (hooray!), we were treated to the most diverse selection of vegan food, drinks, treats, charities, beauty products, and inspirational speakers. Some highlights: meeting with founders of various vegan brands; some very cool charities that I’d love to support; and chatting up Miss Earth USA! (She’s like a princess, people!). Read on for our round up of NYC Veggie Food Festival 2014.
NY Coalition for Healthy School Food is an amazing non profit organization dedicated to changing local school food by introducing plant-based menus and pilot programs. One of their recent initiatives was at a charter school right in my neighborhood of Harlem. Being in the area, I see how important it is for these kids to have an outside role model for healthy eating–Harlem is fast gentrifying and has tons of vegan-friendly options, but I also see a lot of young ones dropping by a bodega for snack or dinner. It’s a stark contrast, and one that can be directly approached by such non profit outreach.
The reigning Miss Earth USA Nicolle Velez was on hand to promote healthy lunches at schools. Miss Earth pageant is a prestigious beauty competition (much like Miss Universe, but with an environmentalist twist). Nicolle represented USA in the international competition and was a semi-finalist. Her favorite cause is palm oil awareness, and yes, she’s a vegan! She is such a lovely, poised, and intelligent role model.
One of the things I really appreciate about events like this is meeting all the founders, who are really passionate about their company, and usually have such an inspirational story behind the brand. Arshad started the nutrition bar Amrita after his son was diagnosed with autism and his family began a healthy eating journey together. They experimented in the kitchen first–and what they liked eating together as a family, became the foundation of the company. I tried chocolate and apricot flavors and they were both very fresh-tasting and delicious.
BeFreegle Foundation was one of my favorite booths of the day. Evidently, beagles are used for toxicity tests because of their sweet, docile nature and keen sense of smell. This group rescues beagles from labs and puts them up for adoption or foster care. This sweet beagle, Juno, was released from research laboratory in 2010, and was adopted by founder Kate Aubry. Now she is a certified therapy dog–and she was so sweet, calm and gentle, even in the chaos of the festival. If you are looking for a gentle companion, please look into BeFreegle site! They’re always looking for foster parents or permanent homes.
I should mention here that vegan soul food is a legit movement right now in Harlem (yes, I know Soulkofa is based in Brooklyn, but hear me out). I witness the beginnings of it right around when I moved here in 2011–now, it’s a full-fledged force. It’s distinct from other vegan subcultures in NYC–think vegan fried chicken, lo mein, fried plantain, mac n’ cheese, and other rib-sticking comfort foods. Nothing fancy, and no over emphasis on super foods, detox, or macro, and lots of Southern, Caribbean, and some African influence.
Rescue Chocolate deserves a special mention. 100% of the proceeds go to animal rescue organizations around the country, and all the chocolates are organic, fair-trade, and vegan–and taste superior to a lot of the premium chocolate brands out there (I would know, because I’ve had them all). And with names like “Peanut Butter Pit Bull” and “Mission Feral Fig,” how can you resist?
Last but not least–we grabbed a pint of Sicilian Truffle ice cream from DF Mavens, and they were so nice to also give us a few mango pop sickles for the ride home. The chocolate flavor was divine (you can’t go wrong with a name like Sicilian Truffle) but the mango flavor was unbelievably delicious! I can’t wait til their retail location opens up in spring. I literally met with so many dozens of brands and organizations that I feel sad not to be able to talk about each of them more. The thing that they all share is such a sense of commitment and passion. I don’t think anyone comes up with an idea to do a vegan company with sheer profits as a #1 goal and priority–they all do it with a sense of purpose that’s really inspiring. Jane Goodall once said, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” My biggest takeaway from NYC Veggie Food Festival was that everyone there was out to make a difference–whether it’s helping children, animals, the environment, or people in general–and that was so inspiring to see.
Related: VegFest Albany 2013
__ Photo: Peaceful Dumpling