Where to Bite Vegan – Emerson College Vegan Food Fest [Boston, MA]

Vegetable lo mein and couscous were two main entrees served up at Emerson's bi-annual Vegan Food Fest.

Soy-cheese pizza and couscous were two main entrees served up at Emerson’s bi-annual Vegan Food Fest.

With a large vegetarian and vegan population on campus,  Emerson College is the perfect site for a Vegan Food Festival.  This event, hosted twice a year by the on-campus student organization Earth Emerson, is an opportunity for students and faculty to experience a vegan diet, while actively learning and participating.

On December 6, the Fall Festival took place, and drew dozens of students to the Bill Bordy Theatre on Tremont Street. Guests waited in line to eat homemade couscous and Whole Foods vegan cupcakes. They carried with them their own dishes and silverware, to cut down on waste.

Returning student Hannah Wallace observed the extremely high number of students who braced the cold December night to sample the array of vegan delights.

“Last year was not nearly as big in attendance,” Wallace said. “It’s exciting to see so many people interested in non-animal product food.”

As always, local restaurants donated vegan food to the event. The popular burrito-spot, Boloco, contributed a variety of mini burritos, and My Thai served up delicious vegan lo mein. Yet in addition, Co-Presidents Erin Moriarty and Kaela Holmes orchestrated a vegan bake-off and pot luck.

“We had a really exciting and wonderful turnout of baked goods…it was kind of like taking it home a little,” Moriarty said.  Peanut butter and agave balls, crunchy snicker doodle cookies, and coconut cake were some of the desserts brought to the event. The winners received gift cards to Veggie Galaxy, a local favorite for meat-free bites (for more on this, check out my Where To Bite Vegan post.)

With a line wrapping around the theater and out onto Tremont Street, it was obvious that the Vegan Food Fest had received the attention group leaders desired.

With a line wrapping around the theater and out onto Tremont Street, it was obvious that the Vegan Food Fest had received the attention group leaders desired.

For many, the promise of free food was the enticing factor. But upon attending the Vegan Food Fest, students found the experience to be surprisingly informative. Heather Hardy, the leader of  Whole Foods Market’s Wellness Club in Dedham, MA, attended the event to lead a discussion on the benefits of a plant-based diets and the surprising dangers of consuming dairy.

With a background as a Holistic Health Counselor and Family Health Specialist, Hardy , who is also an Emerson alumnus, was the perfect person to speak to the room of health-conscious Emersonians. Focusing on surprising details regarding the American dairy industry, Hardy presented a number of unexpected facts.

“By comparison, a cup of collard greens…has just as much, actually more calcium, than a cup of skim milk does. To boot, your absorption…is going to be three times more [from vegetables]” Hardy said. She continued by citing the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which has conducted studies on the topic.  “57% show no benefit from dairy,” Hardy said of these cases, “and 14 actually show unfavorable effects.”

Students who stuck around for the conversation, including Laura Gomez, were startled by the convincing statistics.

“I didn’t know a lot of these things about dairy products,” Gomez said after Hardy concluded her talk. “It was very thought provoking.”

Students gathered to enjoy delicious, cruelty-free food and learn more about the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.

Students gathered to enjoy delicious, cruelty-free food and learned about the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle from Wellness Club leader Heather Hardy.

Holmes, who will continue as President after Moriarty graduates, was pleased with the student response.  The high turnout and engagement with the topic inspired her to bring more educational resources to Vegan Food Fests during her time with Earth Emerson.

“I think in the future I’d like to do a little bit more with education.  I think a lot of people…they misunderstand what it means to be vegan.”

For those who missed this exciting health-centric event, next semester is sure to bring even more to the vegan table.  Look for greater quantities of food, and more information on the benefits to plant-perfect diets.

Until then, check out EarthEmerson.org, the group’s online resource for all things green, and join me next week for another little bite.