Free Vegan Food FairOn Saturday 10th November 2007, Midlands Vegan Campaigns staged our first free food extravaganza and it turned out to be a bigger success than we could ever have imagined!!
in Kings Heath
Free vegan food fairs have become increasingly common over recent years, and are now held frequently in towns and cities across the UK. The aim is simply to promote healthy, cruelty-free and eco-friendly food to those that may not ordinarily get the opportunity to try it. The format for these events is always very similar - the general public flock to sample a wide range of delicious and appetising vegan food and end up taking away masses of information and recipes to help them change their diet for the better. Our fair also boasted a variety of vegan related stalls, a cookery demo, nutrition talks and lots more!
The event was held at All Saints Church Hall in the centre of Kings Heath, a thriving suburb of Birmingham. The local MP, Lynne Jones, took time out from her morning surgery to cut a ribbon and officially open the fair. She then walked round the hall chatting to stallholders, whilst the general public flowed through the door and quickly filled the hall.
Fair visitors wasted no time in tucking into the huge variety of food on offer. Homemade savoury dishes included Sausage and Bean Casserole, Celebration Nut Roast with Stuffing and Creamy Leek Croustade. Whilst delicious desserts ranged from Choccie Banana Cake with Fudge Icing to Raspberry Trifle! There were also lots of samples of food widely available in shops, such as `sausages`, `cheese`, vegan mince, cheatin meats, tofu and burgers!! Many thanks go to companies such as Alpro, Suma and Bute Island Foods for extremely generous donations of their products. We were particularly grateful for Alpro`s massive donation of 600 packets of their brand new tofu pieces/mince. They chose our event to launch these products!! Aside from the free food serving, we made use of the tofu in various other ways, read on! Click here for a full list of the companies & organisations that sponsored the event.
Free printed recipes for each of the homemade dishes were available, enabling visitors to try their hand at cooking the same delicious delights at home! The packaging for all the shop-bought food was on display, so that people would know what to look out for the next time they were out shopping, and there was also a vast array of free leaflets & factsheets detailing all the reasons why animal-free diets are the most compassionate, ethical, eco-friendly and healthy of all. A variety of colourful guides offered help and advice with every aspect of going and staying vegan!
By pure coincidence, November was the world`s first ever Vegan Month, coordinated by Animal Aid. Throughout the month, Animal Aid toured the country, and with the help of Wendy the Windy Cow, they spread the word that veganism is kinder for your health, the planet and of course animals! We were delighted that Animal Aid and Wendy came to our fair. During the morning, Wendy handed out leaflets in the street to encourage people inside! Later in the afternoon, she invited fair goers to take the Vegan Challenge(go vegan for a day, week or the whole of vegan month). Anyone that took the challenge had their photo taken with Wendy or with a vegan speech bubble(see pics on right).
The sheer number of visitors in the first 2-3 hours, meant that there was constantly a long queue at the food table and the platters were being emptied faster than our volunteers could replenish them!! Anyone who attended the fair will know that, despite our team having slaved for weeks to cook mountains of food, by about 1pm much of the home-made food had been eaten and while some volunteers hastily cooked more food in the kitchen, others dashed off to the local shops for more supplies, such as crackers to spread with mushroom pate etc!
It wasn`t just the food that was flying off the tables, stallholders were also doing a roaring trade! Stalls offered a mixture of vegan related information and saleable items such as nutrition wallcharts, organic food & drink, healthy living books, clothes etc. Click here for a full list of stallholders.
The publishers of Lifescape Magazine sent us hundreds of copies of their recent issues for us to offer for free to fair visitors. Lifescape is "Your essential read for a more cruelty-free, fair trade and organic life" and they were all snapped up before we reached half way through the event!
Hot and cold refreshments were on sale all day, as were larger slices of cakes, which both helped us to raise some essential funds to pay for all the free food. We also ran a vegan food tombola, with dozens of prizes on offer at the start but all had gone long before the fair closed.
Whilst all this was going on in the main hall, a cookery demo and talks were held in a smaller room. This room was used for the surgery of Lynne Jones MP during the morning, but from 1pm it was all ours! Due to ill health, Jane Easton of the Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation (VVF) was unable to stage the cookery demo planned for 1pm, but thankfully, Birmingham Vegetarian & Vegan`s (BVV) very own Liz Hughes was able to take time out from serving food to show off her culinary skills before a 40 strong audience! Liz has a Cordon Vert Diploma from The Vegetarian Society and is frequently called upon to give cookery demos. The demo titled `Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Tofu` used lots more of that tofu from Alpro! The demo had the audience captivated for 45 minutes and everyone was treated to samples of the delicious results.
After a short break, the talks got underway. The first speaker was Amanda Woodvine, VVF`s nutritionist and senior health campaigner. Amanda gave her listeners lots of `Nutritional tips to maximise health and weight loss`, followed by a general question and answer session about a vegan diet. After another short break, Amanda was back with a talk titled `Preventing and reversing heart disease and stroke with a plant based diet`. The talk included tips on lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure. The final talk of the afternoon was given by Martin Doyle of BVV. He explained to his audience `Why its Green to Go Vegan` and presented lots of compelling facts and figures to support his case.
Throughout the event, visitors were encouraged to fill in a simple questionnaire. They were asked to tell us how they heard about the event, to describe their current diet, how much they liked our food, whether they had any plans to change their diet etc. In return for completing the questionnaire, they were offered the choice of a free prize - either a box of(you guessed it!) Alpro Tofu Pieces/Mince, a box of Clipper Tea or a Humdinger chocolate bar!
A total of 268 people completed questionnaires. 28% of those were meat eaters, 34% vegetarian, 29% vegan and 9% described themselves as `semi-veggie`, ie they only eat a little meat or still eat fish!! 63% thought that the food on offer was excellent and another 29% described it as good. When asked how would they change their diet after the fair, 4% of the meat eaters said they were thinking of becoming vegan, as did 13% of the semi-veggies and 28% of the veggies!
Under `further comments`, many people gave useful suggestions as to how future fairs could be improved and there were many compliments such as "a great day", "well organised", "very informative fair", "brilliant", "good friendly atmosphere" and "fantastic event".
It`s difficult to accurately estimate how many people attended the food fair, but our rough guestimate is that up to 700 people came through the doors in total!!! The food had clearly run out long before the event finished, but we had no way of knowing that so many people would flock to the event and therefore how much food would be required! Whether visitors arrived in time to sample our vegan delights or not, they all had the opportunity to browse the stalls, take away stacks of free recipes and other information and to seek advice about changing their diet for the better. We were absolutely overjoyed with the success of the fair, but will learn from our few mistakes and will make sure our future fairs are even more successful!!
The event couldn`t have taken place without the hard work of many volunteers. We would like to thank everyone that helped before the fair and on the day. If you were unable to help with this fair but would like to get involved in future, please contact us
Please read on for a list of all the stallholders and sponsors. Don`t forget to see the event gallery for many more larger photos.
The following campaign groups, organisations and businesses held stalls at the event:Viva! (Vegetarians International Voice for Animals) - Probably the world`s biggest vegetarian/vegan campaigning organisation, www.viva.org.uk
The Vegan Society - The national vegan advocacy group of the UK, who have recently relocated to Birmingham, www.vegansociety.com
Birmingham Vegetarians & Vegans (BVV) - Social and support group, www.bvv.org.uk
Flights Orchard Organics - Organic vegetable box scheme that delivers across the West Midlands, www.flightsorchardorganics.co.uk
Thyme Out - Local organic/health food shop at 48 Poplar Road, Kings Heath. (Currently no website)
Birmingham Food Not Bombs - Serves free, vegan food to the hungry, homeless and curious in regular street events, https://lists.riseup.net/www/info/brum_fnb
Animal Aid - Campaigns peacefully against all animal abuse, and promotes a cruelty-free lifestyle, www.animalaid.org.uk
Birmingham Animal Rights/Hunt Sabs - Local grassroots campaigners, active against all animal cruelty. (Currently no website)
We are extremely grateful to the following organisations & companies for generous donations of food and sponsorship, without which this event could not have taken place:
Veggie Snow - www.veggiesnow.org
The Vegetarian and Vegan Foundation - www.vegetarian.org.uk
Birmingham Vegetarians and Vegans - www.bvv.org.uk
Alpro Soya - www.alprosoya.co.uk
Suma - www.suma.co.uk
Clipper Teas - www.clipper-teas.com
Redwood Wholefood Company - www.redwoodfoods.co.uk
Beanie`s Health Foods - www.beanieshealthfoods.co.uk
Bute Island Foods - www.buteisland.com
Plamil - www.plamilfoods.co.uk
Cauldron Foods - www.cauldronfoods.co.uk
Clearspring - www.clearspring.co.uk
Booja Booja - www.boojabooja.com
Just Wholefoods - www.justwholefoods.co.uk
Essential Trading - www.essential-trading.co.uk
R & R Tofu - www.clearspottofu.co.uk
Humdinger Foods - www.humdinger-foods.co.uk
Red Star Natural Liquid Soaps - www.redstarnaturalliquidsoaps.co.uk
Earth Friendly Products - www.greenbrands.co.uk
|Photos from the event
For many more, larger photos, see our gallery