About 100 homeless people in Salt Lake City will get a free chance to sample the vegetarian life on Monday as part of the Great American Meatout.
At the family shelter, 210 S. Rio Grande, Trudy Carter, Robin Hall and other local vegetarians will serve a dinner of sloppy joes made from soybean mixture instead of beef, along with vegetables, salads and whole wheat-honey doughnuts.The Great American Meatout - modeled after the Great American Smokeout - asks people to kick the meat habit for 24 hours on the first day of spring.
It's sponsored by the Farm Animal Reform Movement and supported by a national council that includes such celebrities as Doris Day, Casey Kasem, Ally Sheedy and River Phoenix.
Carter, who is a member of FARM, said she's converted many friends to vegetarianism, helping those who are hesitant by lending recipes, giving cooking tips and encouraging a gradual approach.
She became a vegetarian over about eight months and, while she agrees with giving up meat for one day for the Meatout, she does not recommend an overall cold turkey approach - no pun intended.
"I don't tell people to do it just like that because a lot of times you have a relapse and you dream about meat."
She started by giving up bacon, sausage, pepperoni and luncheon meats, then red meat, then pork and chicken, "and the last was fish. Once you've weaned yourself from fish then you have it made."
Some people, known as vegans, go further and give up eggs and dairy products. "Cheese is usually the last thing to go." Carter said she's not there yet, but she has stopped drinking milk and is cutting back on eggs.
She said she gets the protein she needs from legumes, soy products and other non-meat foods.
Carter said vegetarianism serves many purposes - at the individual health level it reduces consumption of cholesterol and saturated fats. Much meat also contains antibiotics and growth hormones, she said.
Vegetarians can feel good that they are not contributing to the cruelty of factory farming of animals. And vegetarianism has the potential to reduce world hunger, because most of the world's grains are fed to animals instead of people, she said.
Carter said vegetarianism also helps the environment - too many of the world's rain forests have been cut down to provide grazing land for cattle.