Hailley Brune – Opinion Columnist
As somebody with little to no dietary restrictions, I don’t think about food availability often. I hardly notice where the alternative food options are or what they consist of. While having dinner with two classmates it came up how little alternative food options there are, for vegetarians, but especially for vegans. I was surprised since we have the Vari Veggy station, and there’s always a lot of talk surrounding how sustainable and inclusive our food is. I started actively paying attention while in the Caf. The number of times I saw meat or non-vegan options in the Vari Veggie area was sad. That doesn’t even include the weekends when the Vari Veggie area is replaced with the rotisserie section.
After seeing and hearing all this I interviewed a vegan student, Liv Nelson, and a vegetarian student, Cerise Metz. With their opinions and things I’ve heard from others I composed the following. They both said they eat out of the burrito or noodle section most days of the week. On average there’s normally 4 maybe 5 options a day for them to eat. Then during transition periods there’s almost no vegan or vegetarian options left available except noodles or the salad bar. We all know how repetitive food from the Caf can get after a few months, but imagine splitting your options in half.
Something that surprised me is the limited amount of breakfast options, considering how important breakfast is said to be. There is one vegan cereal option in the Caf, but that brings another problem forward. While we have three dispensers for regular milk; there’s no dispenser for alternative milk. There used to be dispensers for oat, almond and soy milk, but it got removed after constantly being empty last year. Which affects not only vegans, but those who are lactose intolerant.
So, you can’t have cereal with milk, so you try the breakfast line. There are vegan sausages, hashbrowns, and sometimes vegan pancakes. The problem is that the sausages run out quickly, and most of the vegan breakfast foods are dry and stiff. A trend that follows a lot of the Caf’s vegan food. The sausages were also changed to a lower quality sausage compared to last year.
You turn around to the bread options. Except most of them are not in bags with no nutrition labels. So, there’s no way to see what they’re made of, and know which ones follow your dietary restrictions. There’s oatmeal, fruit, and vegan yogurt. Except the yogurt is refilled very inconsistently. So, we can have some fruit! Except it’s almost always mixed fruit, so if you’re allergic to any of the fruit, you can’t have that either.
Let’s try lunch and dinner then. Vegans can’t eat the wraps because the tortillas are not vegan. You can get a wrap of vegetables and cheese if you’re vegetarian. There are no alternative meat options, but on average seven regular meat options.
You can have food from the grill instead, but it’s dry as well. The burgers are normally unappetizing to eat and either very dry, or very mushy. Occasionally there are impossible burgers, but not often. There’s also been a lot of concerns about cross contamination and usage of the vegan grill for real meat when it’s busy. So, there’s a level of distrust some have with the food.
The biggest option is noodles because they’re all vegan except for egg noodles. The only sauce option is the red sauce. There have been problems with cross contamination from not being careful, having the meat sauce right next to the red sauce, and ladle contamination.
Cerise and Liv said they only trust the rotisserie on Euro Friday’s. The Vari veggie section should be the best section for alternative food options. Except on many days the sides are the only vegan/vegetarian foods present. For price comparison couscous is $4.25 (rice and vegetable mix), while normal fried rice is $1.95 in the Wok section. The workers are normally not told what’s vegan and what’s not, while the foods are not labeled, and there’s non-vegan food being served.
The last thing that blew my mind was the dessert selection for vegans. I was shocked because there are no vegan dessert options. Last year there was a lemon bar and a berry muffin for a while. This year there hasn’t been a vegan dessert option.
here are obviously good things in the Caf, that’s not what we’re saying. It’s just silly that with how much money we spend a semester along with the push for environmental sustainability we still don’t have an equal distribution of options. Foods that people enjoyed, like the sausages, shouldn’t be changed.
We want simple changes. Make smoothies without yogurt. Separate the red sauces from the alfredo and ensure no cross contamination between the meat red sauce and meatless red sauce. The alternative milk dispensers should be put back and filled just like the regular milk dispenser. There should be cross contamination training and covering of vegan and vegetarian options. All alternative foods should be labeled, even if just to let us know what is safe. The fruit should be separated for allergy and preference reasons. There should be tofu meat options for wraps and breakfast. Lastly, the Vari Veggy section should not be serving meat and should exclusively serve alternative food options.