Vegan lifestyle clashes with College’s ambiguous labels

TEMP ORARY April 20, 2012 0

Vegans and vegetarians (as the names imply) get used to eating lots of vegetables.

With a diet that consists of no meat and, when it comes to vegans, absolutely no dairy products, plant eaters learn to get creative with their meals.

While being a vegan or a vegetarian has a lot to do with choice of diet, some people believe there is much more to it than that. “It’s not just a diet, it’s a lifestyle,” junior vegetarian Elizabeth Brennan stated. “I stress that. It’s about what you eat and don’t eat but it’s also about [using] animal-tested products, cosmetics and that stuff. So I personally take it very seriously.”

Others have chosen to become vegetarians for no reason other than they don’t like meat very much, including sophomore vegetarian Aman Singh. “Suddenly I just wanted to quit [eating] meat, and now I have this passion, it just came out of nowhere, and so I said, ‘what’s the point to eating meat?’” he said.

When it comes to the food at Elizabethtown College, the students and Dining Services staff sometimes come to a crossroad. Because the overall number of vegetarians and vegans is small at the College — vegetarians and vegans always check in with a small margin in Dining Services’ yearly survey — it can be difficult to please everyone.

“We do put a lot of planning into [the food selection],” Residential Dining Chef Charles Downs stated. “We always make sure we have a vegetarian and vegan option available. The thing is, we try to make them options that all the students will enjoy and maybe use to start eating healthier too instead of eating chicken fingers all the time.” The options are clearly marked “vegan” or “vegetarian” so that students can trust what they are eating.

While the dining staff does a lot to ensure a quality selection of food for vegans and vegetarians, some students aren’t very happy with the selection. “I’m a lover of soup, so sometimes I wish there were more soup options other than Cream of Broccoli or cream of Potato. There are also almost no vegan options other than vegetables too,” senior vegetarian Nadine Kennel said.

“Being vegetarian is definitely easier at home,” junior Molly Settle, who was raised vegetarian, said. “In the Marketplace, there’s less to choose from and it becomes especially easier for vegetarians to become bored easily with the food. I feel like with most of the center plate options there isn’t much that I prefer to eat or can eat.”

While many vegetarians see room for improvement, some are relatively happy with the options offered, including first-year Leah Ludwig, who loves the veggie burgers and the salad station which offers a lot of options.

Oftentimes the case is that students don’t have as much information as they should about what is actually available to them. ”There are a lot of options here, but I don’t think they are spotlighted [enough] and one might not know what is available,” Production Supervisor Joe Riddles stated.

On the part of the staff, they would love to know more about what the vegan and vegetarian students want. “There’s always areas for improvement,” Downs said. “I need more feedback because some of the foods we could get are on special order and it doesn’t make sense to get them if people aren’t going to eat them. I’ve even kept certain items on the menu that I know don’t get eaten because I know that vegetarians like them. If we knew certain things that students want, we could make them available, even if it was in a small container.”

There are some particular improvements that students would like to see. “[The labeling in the Marketplace] is a little ambiguous. They label the obvious things but not the not-so obvious. I tweeted once to the College saying, ‘why are the mashed potatoes not labeled vegan or vegetarian?’, and they replied back with the ingredients. But that’s the stuff that vegans and vegetarians want to know about,” Brennan said.

Another idea is one proposed by Ludwig. She hopes to see one specific area for vegetarians and vegans so that all the food could be in one place. All in all, these are the kind of ideas that the Dining Services staff wishes to encourage.

“If there is something that people particularly want, we will do our best to meet their needs,” Downs said. “I would appreciate [people] coming to me and telling me if there are particular foods that they want to see. That is the kind of information we’re looking for.”

Etown offers the ability to make changes and communicate with the staff to make the stay here more suitable, so next time you are in the Marketplace and you see a change that would benefit the students, feel free to speak to Chef Downs directly and let him know. He’d be happy to help.

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