By Phil Whitehead, TVA member and volunteer

What possibly could be the association between distributing vegan cookies outside of the Bathurst subway station during the coldest morning of the winter and attending the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival?

When I attended the Boston Vegetarian Festival in October, 2014, I found an event radiating with enthusiastic energy and filled with delicious food and hospitable people. To my surprise, the founder of the festival, Maynard S. Clark, mentioned that it had been patterned after the Toronto Veg Food Fest. In 1995, he and a group of 12 others attended the entirety of the Veg Food Fest from the Friday afternoon through to the Sunday evening. They then drove back to Boston and were inspired to establish a festival in their own city.

The volunteers who organized and presented the 1995 festival had no knowledge of the Boston group being present nor that they were taking detailed note of how a vegetarian festival could be presented.

The people who worked diligently in Toronto had no idea that another annual festival was about to be founded in a different city and that, 19 years later, it would draw 10,000 into attendance and influence numerous people toward transitioning into a plant-based diet.

I volunteered in January for the TVA’s New Year’s Outreach Blitz that distributed a package containing a vegan cookie, a copy of the Toronto Vegetarian Directory and an animal protection postcard. I was willing to tolerate the -30 wind chill because of the lesson that was gained inadvertently from the outcome of the 1995 Veg Food Fest: When a person volunteers for a vegetarian event, they have no idea who they are influencing, how they are influencing them or what the outcome of that influence might be.