Vegan and vegetarian lifestyles on campus

Vegetarian and vegan diets can be a challenge. There are a large number of vegetarian and vegan consumers on campus who have to find a way to eat the food offered at CMU without compromising their own diet choices. Erica Rayfield, a spokeswoman and chef behind the scenes in the UC, asserts that Dining Services has done what they can to make sure that every student is offered all their nutritional needs as gently as possible. According to Rayfield, the interest in vegetarian and vegan foods is a relatively new phenomenon, and Carnegie Mellon is trying to embrace vegetarian and vegan ways of life.

Since vegetarians do not eat meat, and vegans do not eat any sort of animal product, vendors on campus have to be sure that their food is up to par with students? dietary expectations. The larger vendors, such as those in the UC or in Posner Hall, offer a wide array of different foods to satisfy the vegetarian or vegan palate. Rayfield and the campus vendors recognize that the vendors in the UC would gladly make whatever foods that students ask for. In places such as Skibo and S? Se?or, vegan and vegetarian menus proudly display what options are open to the students. Ginger?s Deli offers a vegetable wrap and a vegetable burger, Asiana in Newell-Simon has a vegetable and tofu entree, and even the Original Hot Dog Shop will provide a veggie burger to anyone who asks for it.

If Dining Services doesn?t have what you are looking for, though, the trucks on campus are a must for any student craving vegetables. Out of the five trucks typically located on Tech Street, every one of them serves a variety of vegetarian options. Four out of these five vegetarian options are actually vegan, as well.

The smaller vendors, such as the Ginger?s Express in Baker Hall and the Zebra Lounge in CFA, are not as accommodating to students with special dietary concerns. Instead of offering nutritious food for vegans and vegetarians, the smaller vendors on campus focus on pastries and teas to help consumers get through their classes. However, the vendors don?t realize that even these dainty dishes are not vegan.

Vegetarians and vegans can find more dining options at the larger vendors on campus, although eating at the same restaurants can get tiring. Dining Services strives to make sure that ample food is provided to satisfy the desires of students, but sometimes the vegan and vegetarian options lack variety. The lack of variety at large on-campus vendors raises the question of whether or not first-years should be required to stay on the meal plan. The lack of variety in food options is especially frustrating since students are spending close to $26,000 a year just to eat the same two or three meals day after day after day.

The fact is that most vegan options only became available in the past year and a half. Michael Croland, the president of Voices for Animals at CMU, reflected that vegetarian foods, such as the two salad bars, the soy milk options, as well as the non-dairy smoothies, did not exist at all when he was a first-year here at CMU. When questioned about what efforts Dining Services has been making to accommodate vegans and vegetarians, he said, ?They really are trying, I believe, to make it easier.?

The move toward a healthier and more environmentally friendly diet is a relatively new occurrence. Croland discussed a survey conducted last October by Aramark, a popular food provider, that found almost 24 percent of students nationwide indicated that vegan foods were important to them (full details can be found here: [ITAL]www.aramark.com/press_releases.htm/ITAL]). With the rise of vegan diets among college students, it is important that students work to make sure not only that vegan options are available on campus, but also that the meat and dairy products used by Dining Services come from free-range farms.

Dining Services is adapting to the new demands by ensuring that vendors follow guidelines that embrace the vegan way of life. These include basic sanitary concerns, such as using separate cutting boards for vegan and vegetarian foods, and wearing and changing gloves often. Croland stated that if a student ever feels that their food is unacceptable, he or she should simply inquire about the processing of their food. Croland himself has inquired about his food many times, and claimed that it was never really a problem.

Dining Services distributes newsletters and conducts daily meetings concerning vegetarian, vegan, and kosher meals to make sure that every student feels comfortable in their environment away from home. Even though vegan and vegetarian foods are a relatively new commodity on our campus, students can always find vegan options, even if there is a lack of variety, simply by asking the chefs.