A look into the vegan options on campus

By TARA ABRISHAMI | April 28, 2016

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Moyan Brenn/ CC BY 2.0 Why don’t the cafeterias offer more nutritionally balanced meal options for vegans and vegetarians?

The FFC tries to supply vegan and vegetarian options each day. Daily rice and beans are offered, which guarantees that vegans won’t starve but does little to provide a balanced and nutritionally varied diet. There are other vegan options occasionally offered, but the variety and quality of the vegan meals are hit-or-miss. While the dining service has been responsive to requests for better vegan options, dining at Hopkins is still far behind its potential to be inclusive and offer a variety of options.

For example the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) recently opened an all-vegan dining hall on campus called “Roots,” reminiscent of the Root dining station at the FFC. However, unlike our Root station, which sometimes serves meat and frequently mislabels vegan items as vegetarian and vice versa, the UCSD Roots dining hall is 100 percent vegan. Their current menu boasts enchiladas, vegan “bergers,” ginger tofu, vegan smoothies and three vegan dessert options.

UCSD isn’t the only college to offer completely vegan dining halls. The University of North Texas (UNT) boasts “Mean Green” in one of their residential colleges, a completely vegan dining hall which supplies a dazzling array of vegan options. Their breakfast menu includes oatmeal, tofu scramble, vegan pancakes, vegan waffles and vegan cinnamon swirl bread. Lunch includes 10 vegan entrées including enchiladas, roasted vegetable quinoa, vegan Mexican casserole and vegan pasta (alfredo and pesto!).

They also serve a vegan vegetable pizza, assorted salads, sides, a vegan chocolate cream pie and a vegan pineapple upside down cake for dessert. Dinner offers even more entrées than lunch, with polenta, lo mein noodles, a California casserole, stuffed peppers and vegetable couscous. A robust selection of sides includes roasted corn on the cob, vegan mac and cheese, vegan corn, squash bake and more. Dessert is vegan sugar cookies, focaccia bread and vegan black forest cake. Even if you aren’t vegan, don’t tell me those options aren’t incredibly appealing.

While UCSD and UNT are both significantly larger than Hopkins, it’s the lack of a vocal student body rather than the size of the student body that prevents Hopkins from reaching similar levels of food excellence.

Let’s assume that five percent of Hopkins students are vegetarian or vegan, which is the number across the United States. The number at Hopkins is probably higher at around seven to ten percent. That means at least 250 undergraduate students at Hopkins eat exclusively vegetarian or vegan meals. Even students who aren’t exclusively vegetarian or vegan will often avoid meat a few times a week.

Why isn’t there a food station at Levering devoted to vegan dining? Most of the stations only offer one vegan or vegetarian option. Instead of offering one option at the same stations where meat and other animal products are prepared, why not provide a food station devoted entirely to vegan and vegetarian diets?

On a campus where not everyone knows what “vegan” means, having a place devoted to the needs of vegan and vegetarian students would send a much-needed message of inclusivity and support for students who find that the university does not adequately sustain their lifestyle.

Vegetarians, vegans and anyone who enjoys a well-prepared vegan meal, why settle for a narrow campus dining culture that all but edges out the sort of dining options that we desire? Other colleges are rising to the challenge fantastically but only after vocal student groups put pressure on them to improve campus dining. Let’s follow suit.

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