Toronto Veg Food Fest: My Experiences as a Volunteer and Visitor

Every year, I love attending the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival. It’s something that I always really look forward to; I can compare it to Christmas morning for vegetarians and vegans! Not to say that meat-eaters don’t also love the Toronto Veg Food Fest. In fact, it is the largest vegetarian food fair in North America, with around 35,000-40,000 people attending each year! Omnivores and herbivores rejoice as it is a free food festival by the waterfront, where you can sample all sorts of tasty morsels. If you haven’t already, you can read all about our visit to the 2013 Toronto Veg Food Fest which I wrote about last year. This year, Justin unfortunately could not attend the festival, so I made the most out of my visit for the both of us (yes, I made sure to bring home lots of yummy treats for him!).

A Brief Overview

The Toronto Veg Food Fest is presented by the Toronto Vegetarian Association, which has been around for over 60 years now! They organize all sorts of wonderful programs in the city, such as Veggielicious, and they even have a TVA card that you can purchase to get discounts at restaurants all over the city. It was a special year for the Veg Food Fest as well – it’s 30th anniversary! As for the festival itself, there are over 130 vendors, local restaurants, and bakeries to purchase or sample food from, as well as guest speakers, cooking demonstrations, films pertaining to veganism/animals, animal rights oriented booths, and other vegan-friendly wares up for sale. The best part of the festival is that it’s completely free to visit.

Giving Back

After attending the festival for a few years, I decided that it was about time that I volunteered for the event. Let me tell you, it was a wonderful experience! And it certainly won’t be my last time volunteering for the TVA – I hope to make it out to some of their other upcoming events, too. To organize a festival of this magnitude, lots of people are needed to make it happen. The TVA relies heavily on its group of volunteers and there are a variety of positions available. I chose to help out in the bookstore for the festival. I love books, I have past retail experience, and I’ve always wanted to work in a library or a book shop. I spent the evening helping to display the books and t-shirts that were up for sale and helped customers locate the books they wanted. One of the best parts of volunteering was meeting a group of like-minded people who were also interested in helping out!


It was also really fun discovering many cookbooks that I didn’t even realize existed. Who knew there was an entire cookbook devoted to vegan ice cream? There were also many animal rights books and health/nutrition books there, too.

If you’re from the Toronto area and you’re interested in volunteering your time with the Toronto Vegetarian Association, you should check out their website and see if it’s something you would enjoy!

Attending the Festival

After my volunteer shift was up, I spent the rest of the evening browsing the event as a visitor. When you first arrive to the food fair, you’ll discover many tents outside all over the place, plus other vendors indoors as well. If you are looking for something in particular or you don’t want to miss a certain vendor, make sure you pick up a festival program from one of the many TVA booths around the event. It’s a good idea to pick up a program to check out dates/times for the various presenters. Luckily, this information is also fully available on their website! For instance, this year, cookbook author Terry Hope Romero is doing a cooking demo; the film, Cowspiracy is having it’s Toronto premiere; and the “world’s unlikeliest vegan”, Big Bald Mike, is speaking about his personal journey to veganism.

I just started wandering around with no plans in mind. I was hungry while I was volunteering, but my appetite was quickly satisfied as samples were being handed out left and right! Within moments, I had eaten a coconut milk ice cream sandwich, Gardein Mandarin Orange “Chik’n”, a small serving of veggie ramen noodles, loads of various chocolates (mmm!), energy bars, hummus, vegan cream cheese, veggie sausages, and more!

It was pretty busy, which is great because I’m happy everyone is enjoying all of the delicious vegetarian food! I noticed that it wasn’t as busy earlier on while I was volunteering. If you want to beat the crowds, I would recommend going as early as you can on the Friday (around 4 or 5pm). I have found in previous years that it is much busier on the Saturday and Sunday than it is on the Friday. However, most of the presenters, cooking demos, and events happen on Saturday and Sunday. If you try not to rush around and you pack some patience, you’ll be able to enjoy the event even with swarms of people all around! Plus, if you are ever feeling overwhelmed, you can sit back on the astroturf lawn in front of the stage, enjoy some food, and listen to some music – there are many local musicians that perform at the event, too!

The Food

This festival is all about the food! While I enjoyed some awesome samples, nothing compares to the main course! There were so many options of cooked and raw meals to purchase – burritos, Indian food, veggie burgers, Asian food, vegan Mac N Cheese, and more. After much deliberation, I decided to try some of the yummy food prepared by one of my favorite restaurants, Zen Gardens. I also got a kale and peach green smoothie from Green Zebra.

For $10, I got a green smoothie ($5) and a sampler combo dish from Zen Gardens consisting of 2 veggie kabobs and 2 dumplings ($5). Everything was really delicious! It felt good eating and drinking my veggies!

There are also many vegan bakeries at the festival. It’s hard narrowing it down to only a few baked goods as I wish I could bring all of it home. It’s great to buy tasty treats that you don’t get to eat everyday! I ended up bringing home some yummy sweets from Apiecalpyse Now and Tori’s Bakeshop.

I couldn’t resist these adorable buttons!
People were giggling over these moist towelettes!

Nighttime started to approach, and by that time I had four full shopping bags of things to carry back to the train. I had reached the point where I couldn’t carry anything else! Before leaving, I had to snap a few pictures of the CN Tower, which looked so pretty all lit up at night.



The Haul

Wondering what I managed to find? Well, here it is! One great part about buying things at the Veg Food Fest is that the companies are there directly selling to you, so you can get some great deals!

  • 6 jars of peanut butter by Peanut Butter Co. – they were 3 for $10 and it’s our fave! In flavors like maple, dark chocolate, white chocolate, smooth, and chunky.
  • 3 cartons of Natura Soy Milk – 3 for $5.00 (regular price: $2.99 each)
  • Flavored roasted beans by The Bean Ladies – 3 packages for $20 (regular price: $9 each)
  • Quinola puffed quinoa cereal
  • Black whole chia seeds – 2 packages for $10 (regular price: $10 each)
  • Vegan soy whipped cream
  • Veggie ramen noodles
  • Lara bars (free)
  • “Buttermylk Sticky Ass Buns” and cotton candy vegan marshmallows from Apiecalpyse Now
  • Cinnamon sugar pretzels and donuts from Tori’s Bakeshop
  • Lots of samples of hemp seeds and hemp protein powder
  • Raw white chocolate bar by Sacred Chocolate

I’m also posting this right after I returned home from the event because you can still attend it for yourself! The Toronto Veg Food Fest is happening all weekend long! Stop by the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto for free food samples, awesome deals, cooking demos, guest speakers, movies, and so much more!

30th Annual Toronto Veg Food Fest

Harbourfront Centre

235 Queen’s Quay West
Toronto, ON M5J 2G8

Friday: 4:00-9:00pm

Saturday: 12:00-9:00pm

Sunday: 12:00-7:00pm

http://vegfoodfest.com

 

20 Responses

  1. Agness
    | Reply

    I’ve been cooking and baking a lot these days, so I am always open to new ideas and recipes :D!!

    • Lauren | Justin Plus Lauren
      | Reply

      Oh awesome!!! I love cooking and baking too. If you’re ever in need of vegetarian recipes, you know who to ask! πŸ™‚ I’m always happy to help!

  2. Sammi Egan
    | Reply

    This looks a lot of fun- I’m not vegetarian (sorry) but quite often choose to make vegetarian foods. I love finding new ideas πŸ™‚ and this festival sounds fun. I, too, laughed at the towelette’s

    • Lauren | Justin Plus Lauren
      | Reply

      I think that most people at the festival weren’t vegetarian either – but have an appreciation, or just love food in general!

  3. WorldWideVegetarian
    | Reply

    Veggie fests are so much fun, and you have made me want to visit the Toronto veg-fest next year! Thanks for sharing your feedback on this event!
    Katie

  4. Els
    | Reply

    I wish we had something big like that in Northern Ireland! Veggies rule!! πŸ™‚

    • Lauren | Justin Plus Lauren
      | Reply

      Maybe someday, I hope you get one! Or maybe if you know a bunch of vegetarians, you could all start one and see how it goes! πŸ™‚

  5. CarmensTravelTips
    | Reply

    I’ve never heard of a veggie feast. What a great way for vendors to sell cook books, food, and you even get to taste it too. That’s great that you volunteered to help out in the book store. Must of been a fulfilling experience.

    • Lauren | Justin Plus Lauren
      | Reply

      It really was! I loved helping out, and it was great to attend in general. There are lots of veggie fests in our area actually, but Toronto is definitely the biggest one.

  6. Will
    | Reply

    I’m from Toronto and have never heard of VegFest! Must check out next time!

  7. Valentina of myveganvalentine.
    | Reply

    That is so cool!

  8. Karyn @ Not Done Travelling
    | Reply

    Damn this looks good!

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      It was SO GOOD. If you come to Toronto, come during the time of Veg Fest πŸ™‚

  9. […] I would love to volunteer more often. There are so many fantastic organizations that I fully support and I’d love to help them out more often. It is difficult sometimes because I can’t volunteer on a regular, weekly basis anywhere, and some organizations require a set amount of hours that you volunteer. I have found a couple of ways to volunteer from home for animal rights organizations, where I can help on my own crazy schedule (I’ve been transcribing some podcasts for an organization, for instance). I’ve helped out physically in the past at farm sanctuaries and I’d like to do that more often. I’d also like to book off some days from work to volunteer when I know about these volunteer opportunities in advance, such as volunteering at the Toronto Veg Food Fair. […]

  10. […] year, I write a blog post about my experiences at the event. In 2014, I volunteered for the first time and wrote all about it. In 2013, Justin and I had a great time attending together. This year, I […]

  11. […] I volunteered at the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival at the bookstore and ate lots of yummy vegan food. […]

  12. […] The biggest vegetarian/vegan food festival in North America. Check out my reviews: 2016, 2015, 2014, […]

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