In order to celebrate the beginning of Veg Week, an event held to support vegetarianism and veganism, 150 Ann Arbor residents gathered Monday at Downtown Home and Garden.

Ann Arbor’s Veg Week event is part of National Veg Week, an annual campaign started by Compassion Over Killing, a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization. The campaign, hosted in over 11 cities nationwide, centers itself on a pledge to abstain from animal products with the intention of raising public awareness on the benefits of vegetarianism and veganism.

Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje and vegan advocate John Salley, a former NBA player, spoke in support of Veg Week while local Ann Arbor restaurants showcased vegetarian food ranging from dinners to desserts.

“Ann Arbor is a place where people are curious and interested about all sorts of things,” Dana Gramprie, the founder of Ann Arbor Veg Week, said. “People here are educated and interested in learning.”

Veg Week highlights Ann Arbor’s trend toward green initiatives, especially those concerning food production. In 2003, Ann Arbor started the Greenbelt Program, an initiative founded to promote local agriculture, and has since bought the development rights of property around the city to further support local farmers.

Hieftje commented on the benefits of local farmers.

“Farmers can continue to farm there for as far out into the future as we can see,” Hieftje said. “(It is) a way to stop sprawl … it’s much more environmentally correct for people to live in city centers and to preserve the countryside for farmland.”

Salley attributed low student attendance to a lack of advertising and the stigma associated with veganism. He said veganism seems incongruent with the stress and money constraints that most college students encounter. Nonetheless, he said the benefits of a healthy lifestyle far outweighs the costs.

“Being healthy is expensive,” Salley said. “(But) being unhealthy is way more expensive.”

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