The Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) was founded on June 19, 1945, at a gathering of 18 people in Toronto. One of the 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, the organization published its first newsletter. The association became incorporated in November 1955.
It was also in the mid-1980s that VegTO 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 VegTO launched its first public Resource Centre and its Vegetarian Directory.
In the 1980s, a small group of younger people took over the leadership of the VegTO, instituting better record-keeping and board-meeting procedures. At the time, there were about 400 members. During these years VegTO focused on outreach through lectures, tabling, and fact sheets.
In the 1990s, VegTO 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.
VegTO’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.
In 2005, the VegTO 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.”
By this time, VegTO’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 VegTO 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, VegTO hosted a Beyond Earth Hour event, a series of expert-led healthy eating workshops, and a one-of-a-kind Compassion Week event.
In 2008 VegTO 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, VegTO 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, VegTO 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.Today, 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.
VegTO 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 VegTO volunteers over the past 70-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.
Looking toward the future, we see the growth of veganism and are so proud of the legacy we have supported. We want to continue to be a part of this movement for decades to come and to achieve this goal, we must continue to reach new audiences. We need to grow with our community.
For this reason, in 2019, the Board of Directors formed a Name Change Committee to embark upon updating our operating name. After several years of consideration, collaboration, and stakeholder engagement, we are thrilled to continue our work as VegTO! Our legal name will continue to be the Toronto Vegetarian Association.
The Veg Climate Network (VCN) is a collaboration of not-for-profit plant-based and environmental organizations working together to save the planet, one plate at a time.
Animal agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), as well as deforestation, loss of biodiversity, land degradation, desertification, water consumption, and pollution. More than a third of all human-caused GHGs are linked to the way we produce, process and package food. And animal-based food contributes twice the amount of greenhouse gas emissions as plant-based food. That’s why adopting a more plant-based diet can have a real impact on our efforts to mitigate climate change and restore the planet. In fact, eating just one soy-based plant burger instead of a beef burger saves almost 400 gallons of water and reduces the associated GHG emissions by over 90%!