Vegan dining lacks variety

When transitioning to college the hardest part is what to eat. At home students are used to their parents cooking for them, but in college students rely on the dining hall and meal swaps. Meals that are offered on campus are not liked by many students, but for vegan students vegan meals are even harder to have a variety of, and they resort to eating packaged and instant food.

Veganism is a lifestyle and is rapidly growing. With people following this plant based diet for various reasons, many want to avoid the exploitation and cruelty of animals and many people do it for health reasons. Unlike vegetarians, who only steer clear of meats, vegans do not eat foods that use or come from animals such as anything containing honey, gelatin, or dairy products. They also, in some cases, wear and use objects that do not contain anything that comes from an animal, leather or fur. 

Yerasly Duran, nursing freshman, not only has a plant based diet, but also wears clothing that is considered vegan.

“All my sweaters are cotton and I do not own any leather or wool articles of clothing,” she said, “Vegans tend to stay away from clothes with real fur and shoes containing things like leather or snakeskin or suede.”

Jordan Logan, theater freshman, has been a vegan for 6 months. She lives in the dorms on campus so she is required to have a meal plan.  

“I usually eat burrito bowl,” she said, “There is not many options.”

Most items on Burrito’s bowl menu are vegan except its meats, dressings, egg and cheeses. Burrito Bowl offers different choices than just the salad bar in Mesquite Dining Hall. However, Burrito Bowl is closed on the weekend, leaving vegan students with not many options of what to eat.

Mesquite Dining Hall offers very few vegan variations or alternatives. When asked, Mueen Patankar, director dining services, he said to refer to the dine on campus website. It shows the menu for the dining hall and has icons next to the items that are vegan or vegetarian, including gluten-free options.

“I kind of just eat some salad or fries if it is open or I eat ramen or if I have the money a few cooked meals in the dorm.” said Logan.

The dining hall does offer tofu, however, on the menu it is always grilled and season with ginger and sesame seeds. There are various ways to cook and prepare meals with tofu that the dining staff could learn. The dining hall also offers a Garden burger, but it is vegetarian not vegan, still leaving vegans with very few large meals.

Logan said she thinks there should be ingredient cards next to the food so that students do not just assume the food is not vegan, it is not only easier for them but it will even allow students with dairy or egg allergies to eat easier.

“I can’t assume it’s vegan because it’ll make me sick,” Logan said.

She suggests adding the availability of almond milk, non-dairy milk alternatives and adding a variety of fruits and vegetables are things the dining hall could work on for improvement. 

“I shouldn’t have to put my morals aside so that I can eat. I think I should have at least a few more options for the money I’m paying for the meal plan” she said, “I got the unlimited plan so it would be easier, but I just made it harder because I have less flex dollars so I do not have the money to buy smoothies and things that would be better for me to have.”

Duran said it is difficult to be vegan on campus.

“I converted to veganism because I wanted to be healthier,” Duran said, “I know if I change my diet back to eating animal products it will make me feel sick until my body gets used to processing the foods again.”

Duran said she has considered to go back to eating animal products just so she could have fuller meals.

“I get tired of the same foods everyday,” Duran said, “I usually eat salads, but I miss my hearty vegan soups. I sometimes opt for vegan ramen and burritos, vegan oatmeal, and trail mixes. I eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Sometimes it seems unfair to me because I have to pay for a meal plan that I’m not using.”

She said the dining options could improve by having more vegan meals prepared rather than things she could have to toss into a salad.

“They serve pizza everyday and could maybe start offering vegan pizza or perhaps have some vegan meat alternatives, such as soy-rizo or vegan chicken nuggets,” she said.

Meal plans are the same for all students who live in the dorms, whether they eat less than half or all the choices of food they have. 

Other food options on campus include Chick-fil-A, Einstein Bros Bagels, Burrito Bowl, Starbucks, Maverick’s Corner, and the concierge at Legacy. 

Chick-fil-A offers fries and fruit cups that are vegan.

Starbucks has coconut milk that could be used as a dairy alternative, and many of their teas are also vegan.

Grill nation offers no vegan meals, but their fries are vegan. 

Einstein Bros Bagels offers hummus and peanut butter that is vegan, but its only vegan bagel is its sun-dried tomato bagel.

Maverick’s Corner has cooked vegetables during lunch and vegan options at their salad bar during lunch. In their late night menu, their vegan options consist of fries and salad toppings that are put on top of nachos or in burgers.

The Concierge at Legacy has a variety of snacks including hummus and pretzels, Oreo minis, oatmeal, fruit cups, and many others.  They also have some dairy alternative drinks. 

“I want to see MSU have its own vegan restaurant,” Duran said, “But at least start small with a vegan dining line just like the Pizza, Home, and Grill ones. Maybe then I’ll eat there more often and maybe then I would feel like having a meal plan is worth it.”

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