Story and photos by Brenika Banks
Vegans flocked to the New York Vegandale Food Drink Festival on Randall’s Island this fall. They came to sample the offerings of more than 100 vendors from different cities in North America who brought their best vegan foods, drinks and other merchandise to the city’s third annual festival. The correlation between animal meat consumption and rapid climate change has had a major hand in boosting the global vegan trend, and Vegandale aims to serve as an annual reminder that changing the world, while a serious matter, can also be delicious.
Nelia’s Veg Kitchen, which specializes in Caribbean-inspired vegan and plant-based food and drinks, is participating in the festival for the first time this year. Atiba Edwards, one of the sons involved in this New York-based family business, said he was thrilled to be at the festival. For the family, the festival marks a reunion of sorts; the had disbanded for eight years while he and his siblings were in college. “Festivals like this highlights the array of vegan foods, both locally and internationally,” said Edwards.
CLR Trust, a company run by Cathy Ramos sells vegan cookbooks and offers personal, hands-on cooking classes. Ramos is enthusiastic about the idea of people incorporating things like sea moss and minerals into their everyday diets. “To stop unhealthy cravings and lower parasites in your body,” she said.
Another vendor, Cilantro & Mint Inc. is a family business that specializes in Indian street food. Felicia Chaviano takes the lead role in the business with help from her sister and parents. Chaviano said the Vegandale Festival is a great opportunity for people who are curious about veganism to come try out different, tasty foods. She also stated the importance of this festival as a way to bring awareness and consideration for non-vegans to slow down their meat consumption and help the environment.
“You think about veganism with food, but what about other things?” asked Krina Shah, owner of Krina’s Corner, another vendor at the festival and a non-profit business based in New Jersey that offers Indian-inspired paintings, jewelry and hand-crafted pieces that are all 100 percent vegan. Shah said her vegan lifestyle, Hinduism and Indian culture inspire her work. For example, Shah uses vegan paints for her crafts, as many regular paints contain animal bones. It’s important to her to verify that no animals or humans have suffered for any materials she uses to create her pieces, she said.
Studies have shown that Vegan culture can actually benefit the environment by reducing energy used in meat production. If more people became vegan, or incorporated vegan meals into their diets, it would help mitigate the effects of climate change. According to a written statement in Farm Journal Magazine from Air Quality Specialist and professor of animal science Frank Mitloehner, animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases. These gases are primarily carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that prevent the sun’s beams from dissipating into the universe. Instead, the gases trap the sun’s heat, which can lead to the earth overheating. Due to the world’s high demand for meat consumption, countries turn forests into grazing land for livestock; in Brazil, for example, such deforestation led to the recent Amazon fires.
According to a poll conducted by Gallup.com, sales of plant-based alternatives grew 8.1 percent in 2017. The Economist, as well as The Guardian and Maclean, called 2019, “The Year of the Vegan.”