6 Reasons You Should Go to VegFest O‘ahu

This free event on Sept. 2 isn’t just for vegans.
That may look like pulled pork, but it’s really barbecue pulled jackfruit. Learn how to make this dish at this year’s VegFest O‘ahu on Sept. 2.
Photos: Courtesy of VegFest O‘ahu


Once a fringe diet that scared most meat- and butter-loving Americans, veganism is starting to move from marginal to mainstream.


You can find tempeh and tofu in supermarkets. Many restaurants—Downbeat Diner and Pai Honolulu, for example—offer vegan substitutions. And celebrities from Olivia Wilde to Jennifer Lopez are touting the health (and body) benefits of a plant-based diet.


Yet, it was still a surprise to Joy Waters, who organized the first VegFest O‘ahu last year, that more than 4,000 people attended the free, one-day celebration of all things plant-based.


“I didn’t think we were ready last year,” Waters says, “and then 4,000 people showed up. It was unprecedented for a first-year event to have that kind of attendance. The food booth sold out twice!”


This year, Waters will be prepared. VegFest O‘ahu, which will be held from noon to 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 2 at the grounds of Honolulu Hale, will feature nearly 50 booths offering everything from plant-based plate lunches from ‘Umeke Market to vegan-themed apparel. You can take a mini yoga or Nia dance class, buy handcrafted soaps made from vegan ingredients, talk to a naturopathic doctor, even participate in a silent disco.


“There’s so much going on this year,” Waters says.


Even if veggies aren’t your thing—or you’re completely obsessed with cheese—there’s something at VegFest for you, too.


Here are six reasons why everyone should check it out next weekend.


1. You’re Curious about Vegan Food

Get this falafel plate from Ke Nui Kitchen’s food booth.


You don’t need to be vegan to enjoy plant-based foods. Down To Earth will be running a deli, hot bar and salad bar. Try vegan dishes from Peace Café, Ke Nui Kitchen and Juicy Brew. Sample breadfruit hummus by ‘Ulu Mana or probiotic fermented foods (think kim chee and sauerkraut) by Counter Culture. There will be dessert, too, including HI Cravings’ acai bowls topped with vegan cookie dough, and energy bars made from kiawe bean pod flour from The Cut Connection. If that’s not enough, there will also be a tent handing out free samples of vegan “meats” and “cheeses” from Field Roast, The Jackfruit Co., Primal Spirit Foods and more. So, you can try vegan food without the commitment.


2. You Love to Cook

Down To Earth’s Edgar Edge will demonstrate how to make a butternut slaw and barbecue pulled jackfruit AT this year’s VegFest O‘ahu.


The Learning Kitchen Tent will feature four cooking demos throughout the day. Kim Oshita, a registered dietician with Kaiser Permanente, will show you how to make a three-bean salad and sandwich spread. Edgar Edge, a lifelong vegetarian and deli manager and food service director at Down To Earth, will prepare a butternut slaw and barbecue pulled jackfruit sandwich. Mama T. Gonsalves, executive chef at ‘Umeke Market, will make beluga lentils with seasoned quinoa. And William diGiorgio, Honolulu-based personal vegan chef, will demonstrate making a chia seed breakfast pudding and chia seed pancakes.


3. You Loved Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret and What the Health

Keegan Kuhn, the award-winning co-director of these two documentaries—released in 2014 and 2017, respectively—will be speaking about what happens when health care becomes a business and stakeholders are more interested in turning a profit than improving community health.


4. You Have a Crush on Leilani Munter

This Hawaiian racecar driver and environmental activist will share her personal story, from studying biology to racing cars to advocating for the environment. A nearly lifelong vegetarian, Munter is now vegan and adopts an acre of rainforest for every race she runs. She sits on the board of the Oceanic Preservation Society and was recently featured in the 2015 documentary I. She blogs about the environment for the HuffPost, she was named the No. 1 eco-athlete in the world by Discovery’s Planet Green, and Sports Illustrated considers her one of the Top 10 female racecar drivers in the world. She’ll talk about why eliminating meat and dairy from your diet is one of the single-most impactful thing you can do to make a difference in your health and for the planet.


5. You Care about Your Health

This breakfast pudding is packed with plant-based goodness including chia seeds and fresh fruits.


Obesity is an epidemic, especially here where 1 in 4 adults are considered obese. Hawai‘i also has the highest rate of diabetes in the U.S. Lifestyle changes to diet and exercise are the best ways to treat and prevent this. Research shows that higher animal protein intake is associated with mortality and replacing it with plant protein may improve your health and lower your risk for disease. Dr. Irminne Van Dyken, general surgeon with The Queen’s Medical Center, will discuss why a whole foods, plant-based diet is a way to prevent and treat many common maladies. “Eating less meat, making this one change, can fulfill you from a health perspective,” Waters says. “It’s empowering.”


6. You Care about the Environment

Going vegan doesn’t just affect your health—it affects the planet’s health, too. Growing vegetables uses less land, water and energy than raising livestock. According to PETA, animal agriculture—feeding farmed animals, processing them, transporting and storing the flesh—is energy-intensive and may contribute to climate change. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that, while agriculture is responsible for 80 percent of the U.S. water consumption, more than half of that is used for livestock. If the world ate more plants, the estimated food-related greenhouse-gas emissions could be cut by 70 percent by 2050, according to the National Academy of Sciences. “We’re hoping to change the conversation from food and what it tastes like to other questions, like, ‘What’s the consequence of my eating this on my body and the environment?’ and ‘What’s the carbon footprint of this?’” Waters says. “If we can start that conversation, I’ll feel like I’m doing my job.”


Noon to 5:30 p.m., Sept. 2, Frank Fasi Civic Grounds, Honolulu Hale, 530 S. King St., vegfestoahu.com




Join us for an evening of fantastic food, creative cocktails and exhilarating entertainment as we celebrate Hawai‘i’s very best restaurants at the 2018 Hale ‘Aina Awards: Destination Delicious on Sept. 17 at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Take a culinary trip around the world in one evening while you dine on artfully crafted dishes from Hawai‘i’s best chefs. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.