LEWISTON — People Eating Plants, a Bates College student group promoting diets free of animal products, has raised nearly $1,200 for a Lewiston charity.

Supported by the college’s dining services, the group observed the Great American Meatout on March 20 by asking students to pledge to abstain from eating meat that day. For each pledge, dining services offered to donate a “plate cost,” representing the savings from the animal products not served, to a charity of the group’s choosing.

To tempt potential pledges, dining services invited noted vegetarian chef Ken Bergeron, author of the cookbook, “Professional Vegetarian Cooking,” to prepare animal-free (otherwise known as vegan) specialties in the college’s dining hall on the day of the Meatout.

Cooking at a station in the main dining area, Bergeron’s vegan recipes included white bean cakes with peach tomato salsa, winter squash Afghani style and chocolate zucchini “Nanny” cake. The project was a success.

Group founder Alexis Curry said 654 Bates students took the pledge. At $1.82 apiece, that means that $1,190.28 will be donated to the Trinity Soup Kitchen in Lewiston.

The day before the Meatout, Bergeron also held a cooking class with members of PEP that ended with a communal dinner. Bergeron, who became a vegetarian in 1982, said confrontation is not the way to get people to consider a change in diet. “Let the food speak for itself,” he said.

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