Planting the Seeds of a Vegetable-Loving Community

Veg PEI serves up plant-based education, events, and restaurant challenges

“You don’t win friends with salad.”

Or so Homer Simpson tells his daughter, Lisa, in a 1995 episode of The Simpsons when she decides to become a vegetarian and is ridiculed by her family and schoolmates for her dietary choices. Feeling alone and frustrated, Lisa’s resolve to stick to her decision wanes until Paul and Linda McCartney show up and, along with Apu, encourage her to remain vegetarian. Twenty two years later the Lisas of the world are no longer on the fringe, alone, or in need of a pep talk from a British celebrity. A myriad of communities online and off have sprung up for those exploring different plant-based diets. Island-based Veg PEI is one such community that has grown exponentially since it was founded ten months ago.

“We wanted to make plant-based eating more accessible and appealing,” said Brittany Boothroyd, co-founder of Veg PEI.

A Red Seal Chef and lifelong omnivore, Boothroyd moved to a vegetarian diet in April 2016, spurred on by the environmental, economical, and ethical reasons that encourage many to do the same. That same month she joined forces with her friend and long-time vegan, Hilary Wood, to create a Facebook page for the PEI vegetarian and vegan community.

The online community allows followers to easily share recipes, ask questions, discover local restaurants with veg-friendly options, and discuss plant-based diets in a welcoming space. While the Facebook page proved popular and useful, Boothroyd and Wood wanted Veg PEI to provide a real-world community space too. The duo spearheaded efforts to showcase plant-based diets and encourage more Islanders to discover the diverse and delicious options such diets offer all year long.

“We wanted to make plant-based eating more accessible and appealing,”

They began with a monthly vegan potluck night open to the public. “Hilary started the potlucks before we founded Veg PEI, but they started to build once we had momentum from the online community. We’ve had as many as 80 people in one night,” said Boothroyd. “The majority [that attend] are vegans or vegetarians, but we do have meat eaters too. Sometimes they’re really surprised by what’s on offer…it’s much more than just salads.”

photo credit: Richard Schroeter

The biggest coup for the newly-formed Veg PEI in 2016 has been the creation of Veg It Up!. Veg It Up! invited Island restaurants to create one or more vegan-based menu items to serve during the final weekend of September. “Burger Love was actually the inspiration. We wanted to show Islanders how delicious and gourmet vegan food can be,” Boothroyd said.

The vegan restaurant challenge far exceeded Boothroyd and Wood’s expectations, with 15 restaurants and nine market booths jumping into the ring and conjuring up divine dishes. “Some restaurants sold out of their dish during the weekend and there was so much positive feedback from diners on our Facebook page.”

submitted photo

As 2017 unfolds, an enhanced Veg It Up! campaign is already in the works for the last two weekends of September. Veg PEI is partnering with EatsPEI to promote the campaign and exploring ways to integrate Island produce into the featured dishes. The grassroots group is also working to become a registered non-profit organization and develop a website.

Get plant-inspired with Veg PEI

Facebook: Veg PEI
Website: www.vegpei.ca
Veg PEI Potlucks: The last Monday of every month at Trinity United Church. Doors open at 6.30pm, dinner is at 7pm. $2 if you bring a vegan dish, $7 if you don’t bring a dish.

Both Boothroyd and Wood will be stepping away from their leadership roles at Veg PEI due to travel/moving plans. Jamie Barry and Kate Shreenan are taking the helm in 2017, a year our in-house food trend expert Emilee Sorrey says is going to be all about plant-based eating.

So whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, raw vegan, fruitarian, pescatarian, flexitarian, or curious omnivore, you might want to make a note to head to Trinity United Church on the last Monday of any month for a potluck full of hearty plant goodness and community building.

About Shannon Courtney

Shannon oversees all content creation for Salty and may be ‘slightly’ obsessed with proper apostrophe usage. When she’s not writing about food, she’s either cooking, eating, talking, or thinking about it. Her food adventures have included milking a Jersey cow in Australia, almost overdosing on maple syrup in Prince Edward County, and studying local food systems in Vermont as part of her Master’s thesis research. Shannon is also a holistic-nutritionist-in-training and strongly believes you CAN make friends with salad.

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