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A meeting without meat

The point of the event, Kristin said, is not to "convert" anyone. If past years are any indication, many of the people who attend will already be vegetarian or vegan, which means they don't use or consume animal byproducts. If any meat eaters attend, Kristin said, the objective is to teach them about some of the benefits of the other diets and maybe offer them some food samples.

While Kristin was pretty open about trying a vegetarian lifestyle herself, she balked when her parents turned vegan. "I wasn't ready to give up my cheese and my ice cream," she said.

But on her trips home from college, she noticed things were disappearing from the refrigerator. Regular milk was gone. Ice cream soon followed. Her parents bought her shirts that said, "Vegan."

It wasn't until she attended an expo in Syracuse, though, that she decided to embrace the vegan lifestyle after hearing dietician George Eisman talk about the detriments of dairy products. "That's what triggered it for me," she said.

While the health aspect was at the root of what convinced her family to make the move to a vegan lifestyle, in the ensuing years, they've also grown conscious of the benefits to animals and the environment. "It's a powerhouse combination," she said.

She remembers growing up with a friend whose dad couldn't fathom giving up meat. When he saw Kristin and her family, he would tease them, saying, "You're going to eat grass for dinner."

Not long ago, though, Kristin's friend convinced her dad to attend the vegetarian expo. He listened to the speakers, bought some books and was soon on the phone to Lajeunesse family.

"He said, 'Oh my goodness, I'm sorry. I didn't realize how amazing it was,'" Kristin said, noting that the man has been vegetarian ever since.

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