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Plant-based movement to be celebrated at VegFest

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published April 7, 2016

 The primary goal of VegFest is to educate people on how easy it is to transition to a plant-based diet.

The primary goal of VegFest is to educate people on how easy it is to transition to a plant-based diet.

Photo provided by Cyndi Summers

NOVI — The state’s premier plant-based tastefest and exposition is back. 

Presented by VegMichigan — a nonprofit organization that promotes the health, environmental and ethical benefits of a plant-based, vegan lifestyle — VegFest will be held at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. April 24. 

When VegFest first started 17 years ago, it grew like lettuce — fast. Paul Krause, president of VegMichigan, said that 200-300 people attended the first event. This year, they’re expecting 5,000-plus people. 

“Our primary goal (of VegFest) is to educate people. We want to do it in a friendly, nonconfrontational way,” Krause said. “They can learn just how easy it is to transition to a plant-based diet. We’re not telling you you have to do anything specific, just whatever you can.” 

Whether you’re looking to eliminate meat and dairy from your diet once a week or to eliminate it completely, Krause said there’s something for everyone at VegFest. 

“(Plant-based nutrition is) a win-win-win situation. It’s good for your health, it’s good for the environment and certainly good for the animals,” Krause said. 

VegFest will feature a food court where over 65 food vendors — including Detroit-based Russell Street Deli and Detroit Vegan Soul, and Farmington-based Chive Kitchen — will showcase vegan foods. An exhibit area will be set up where animal-cruelty-free merchandise can be purchased. 

The presentation schedule kicks off at 11:15 a.m. with an introduction to VegMichigan. Dr. Alan Goldhamer will discuss “Escaping the Dietary Trap” at 11:30 a.m., and actress Simone Reyes will talk on “Activate to Liberate: The Vegan Revolution” at 12:30 p.m. John Salley, a retired professional basketball player, will present “The Betta Life” at 1:30 p.m., and Mercy for Animals President Nathan Runkle will discuss “The Power of Our Plates: Saving Animals at Every Meal” at 2:30 p.m. 

“We also have a large children’s room where we’re going to have all kinds of festivities there — games, prizes, coloring books. We try to portray an (animal-friendly) atmosphere … and where children learn at an early age (are encouraged) to eat the right foods,” Krause said. 

There will also be a section where people can learn how to substitute different ingredients when cooking plant-based meals.

“Ten billion animals just in the U.S. suffer torture just for our addiction to meat, dairy and cheese. None of that is necessary in our lifestyle, and we’re learning more and more about that,” Krause said. 

A plant-based lifestyle also has health advantages, as it reduces the chance of cancer, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, Krause said.

“The word is out. We just can’t continue eating like this. … I think we’re in the beginning of a movement finally, and VegMichigan is here to support that movement.”

One person who has experienced the healing powers of a plant-based diet is West Bloomfield resident and founder of the Plant Based Nutrition Support Group Paul Chatlin. 

Chatlin used to follow a Western dietary pattern — red meat, sugar, high-fat foods — but on May 10, 2013, he learned that he had heart disease. Chatlin had the decision to either undergo triple or quadruple bypass surgery, or to completely change his diet. 

Chatlin opted to switch his diet to plant-based nutrition, and he no longer needs heart surgery. In efforts to increase awareness about preventing and reversing heart disease through this diet, he founded the Plant Based Nutrition Support Group in 2014. 

In just two short years, the group has expanded and is now the largest plant-based nutrition support group in the world, Chatlin said. 

When asked about the importance of VegFest, Chatlin said that environmental issues should be a top priority for everyone. 

“VegFest reminds us just how vulnerable we all are. By adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet, we all can improve our health, reduce animal consumption and improve our beautiful planet,” Chatlin said.

Tickets for VegFest cost $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Children 6 years old and younger and VegMichigan members attend for free. 

For memberships, discounts and information on sponsorship, exhibiting, volunteering or the day’s schedule, call (877) 778-3464 or visit Suburban Collection Showplace is located at 46100 Grand River Ave. in Novi.