My school, Brandeis University, has made the finals of the most vegan friendly college campus for 2011. I should feel excited and proud, right? WRONG.
I don’t understand how my school made the finals. I lasted 2 weeks on campus as a vegan before I had to move off campus into an apartment with a kitchen. I could ramble on about how gross the food is in the dining halls but that isn’t a vegan issue, that’s an Aramark/school cafeteria issue. My quarrel with the vegan options at Brandeis boils down to nutrition.
Though I hate hearing the question, “how do you get enough protein,” I understand that it is a real issue for many vegans or vegetarians. With my own kitchen, I can regulate the beans/nuts/protein rich vegetables/tofu/quinoa that I consume. For students on a meal plan, they are at the mercy of the dining halls to balance their diets. The sad reality is, there sometimes aren’t vegan-friendly proteins available. There are other nutritional gaps too, like a lack of variety of foods to offer the whole spectrum of nutrients necessary.
Here’s what my school offers for vegans. I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not you’d vote them vegan friendly.
- One vegan station in the dining hall. They usually have 2-3 things on the menu (like rice, broccoli, and meatless nuggets) and they serve the same thing all day. That means, if you ate if for lunch, you probably don’t want to eat it for dinner too. You may think, wow, a whole vegan station, that seems friendly; however, imagine eating the same food everyday, every week, in a rotation with no choice as to what you can choose from.
- Pre-packaged refrigerated meals. Nothing says gourmet like a plastic container filled with been salad. Great.
- Pre-packaged frozen meals (and we’re talking maybe 2 options).
- Fruit/salad–standards at any cafeteria. Not special by any means.
- Veggie burger. However, of the three places on campus that serve veggie burgers, only one of them is vegan. And, it is served on a white bun (yuck).
- Standard snacks (like chips, Odwalla bars, cereal, nuts, dark chocolate)
- How about vegan friendly breakfast items like vegan waffles, vegan pancakes, tofu scramble, vegan sausage, or vegan muffins.
- Vegan desserts. Until I can buy a vegan cookie on campus, I refuse to call our campus vegan friendly. At least add some vegan ice cream into the freezer. Vegans want brownies and cakes and milkshakes too!
- More protein options. Meatless chicken nuggets are not going to cut it.
- How about a vegan stir fry station. We have a Japanese station with cook-to-order stir fry but they only ever offer meat. It’s simple, offer tofu and voila, it’s vegan.
- Maybe carry vegan cheese. All of the sudden, the quesadilla station can become vegan with vegan cheese.
- Vegan condiments (vegan cream cheese or vegan butter would be nice).
- More natural foods. Let’s face it, vegans care about what they put into their bodies. Offer natural peanut butter for starters.
- Vegan pizza please. We’d like a slice too!
- Whole grain, vegan breads. Everything is white and that’s just gross.
- MORE VEGETABLES, like x10.
- More options in general. Non-vegans are not allowed to complain about being bored with food options in the dining halls until they’ve lived off the limited vegan choices for a couple months.