Toronto’s go to resource for more than 60 years

THE FOUNDERS ERA (1945-1980)Toronto Vegetarian Association members gather in 1945

The Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) was founded on June 19, 1945 at a gathering of 18 people in Toronto. One of TVA’s first campaigns involved sending soy grits and vegetable oil to war-torn Europe. Other early activities included holding dinners and lectures, writing to restaurant owners to request meatless dishes, and having letters and notices published in Toronto’s daily newspapers. By July 1946, there were more than 100 members. By the 1950s, TVA published its first newsletter. The association became incorporated in November 1955.

THE SECOND WAVE (1980-2000)

In the 1980s, a small group of younger people took over the leadership of the TVA, instituting better record-keeping and board-meeting procedures. At the time, there were about 400 members. During these years TVA focused on outreach through lectures, tabling and fact sheets.

It was also in the mid-1980s that TVA launched its flagship event, the annual Veg Food Fest, which has since grown to become the largest event of its kind in North America. It was also in this decade that TVA launched its first public Resource Centre and its Vegetarian Directory.

In the 1990s, TVA published several cookbooks and handbooks and launched its first resource website. The 10th Annual Vegetarian Food Fair in 1994 attracted more than 10,000 people. TVA’s profile in the international vegetarian movement got a big boost when it hosted the 37th World Vegetarian Congress in July 2000, after a two-year planning effort. By the end of the decade there were more than 1000 members.

RECENT ACHIEVEMENTS (2000-present)

In 2005, the TVA board hired its first executive director to handle day-to-day management, allowing the board to focus on governance and strategy. One of the board’s first major tasks during the transition phase was to review the organization’s mission statement. To better reflect its audience, the scope of activities and the values the organization wished to communicate, the following was adopted: “To inspire people to choose a healthier, greener, more peaceful lifestyle.” Accompanying values and vision statements were also drafted with input from members, volunteers and staff.

By this time, the TVA’s one-week Veggie Challenge program moved online. Since its launch thousands of people have signed up to try a plant-based diet for one week with the support of daily emails crafted by the Veggie Challenge team. Survey results show that participation has led many to reduce or eliminate animal products from their diet in favour of healthier, greener, cruelty-free veg alternatives.

In late 2007, the TVA embarked on an ambitious, detailed three-year strategic plan, with each of the years focusing on a specific area — the environment in 2008, health in 2009 and compassion for animals in 2010. Over the course of that cycle, TVA hosted a Beyond Earth Hour event, a series of expert-led healthy eating workshops and a one-of-a-kind Compassion Week event. The next strategic plan cycle began in 2011 and resulted in a new three-year plan.

In 2008 TVA volunteers launched the first-ever Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-off, which has grown to attract dozens of bakers each year and hundreds of tasters. In 2010, TVA partnered with Earthsave Canada to initiate a Canadian Meatless Mondays campaign. In 2011, Veggielicious was launched with more than 20 participating restaurants and two major televised news segments. Also in 2011, TVA partnered with 10,000 Tastes, 10 Billion Reasons for Canada’s largest ever veggie dog giveaway at Yonge-Dundas Square, and partnered with BeVeg Canada on its “Why love one but eat the other” TTC ad campaign.

The Veg Food Fest continues to be the largest event of its kind in North America, with more than 40,000 visitors over three years each September at Harbourfront Centre.

THE WORK CONTINUES

The Toronto Vegetarian Association has come a long way since 1945 and we are proud of all that we’ve achieved so far. Together, we will continue the work done by passionate TVA volunteers over the past 60-plus years as we envision a world where people think critically about their food choices, where market forces drive food producers to provide healthy, sustainable plant-based foods, and where all animals are treated with compassion and kindness.