Campus dining fails to meet vegan, vegetarian demands

A recent petition for more vegan options on campus attracted more than 1,200 signatures. Another petition begins next week.

Sophomore Mary Musielewicz and senior Jake Nath sell items Tuesday during their vegan bake sale at Coffman Union.  Musielewicz and Nath are student officers for Compassionate Action for Animals, a group that works to promote respect for animals and vegetarianism in the Twin Cities.

Sophomore Mary Musielewicz and senior Jake Nath sell items Tuesday during their vegan bake sale at Coffman Union. Musielewicz and Nath are student officers for Compassionate Action for Animals, a group that works to promote respect for animals and vegetarianism in the Twin Cities.

by Amanda Bankston

Sofia Huerter swore off eating meat when she was only 8 years old.

âÄúIt occurred to me one day, even at that age, that when I ate meat it meant an animal had to die,âÄù she said.

Eleven years later, the current University of Minnesota senior said sheâÄôs trying to make it easier for fellow University students to lead meat-free lifestyles.

She started one of two recent petitions demanding more vegan and vegetarian options on campus.

Her petition âÄî organized in collaboration with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals âÄî gained more than 1,200 signatures during the last week in October.

Another petition, this one by the Compassionate Action for Animals student group, will begin Monday.

Though they are separate petitions, they share the goal of proving University Dining Services needs to expand its vegan and vegetarian menu.

âÄúStudents are becoming increasingly aware of the inherent cruelty and vast inefficiency of raising and killing animals for food,âÄù Ryan Huling, manager of college campaigns and outreach for PETA said.

âÄúI think for a school of the size the University of Minnesota is, there are a lot of improvements they can be making to keep up with the national trend.âÄù

âÄòThe national trendâÄô

By 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Stephanie Lynch canâÄôt wait to get home and eat.

The University sophomore is just getting used to her new vegan lifestyle.

She said she typically goes without eating from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on her busy class days because of the limited vegan options on the St. Paul campus.

When Lynch chose to go vegan about a month ago, she joined a growing number of vegan and vegetarian college students around the nation.

More college students than ever are opting for vegan and vegetarian lifestyles, according to research by national food management company Bon Appetit. In a survey of college students, the company found the number of students who identify as vegetarian has increased by 50 percent from 2005 to 2010. The number of vegans has more than doubled.

Huling said the increase has been a cue for many college campuses to rethink their dining options.

PETA hosts an annual competition to find the most vegan-friendly schools in the country. Last year, fellow Big Ten school Northwestern University took top honors. Though Minneapolis was named one of PETAâÄôs âÄúMost Vegetarian-Friendly CitiesâÄù in 2006, the University of Minnesota has never made the list.

Some top schools offer mock-meat equivalents of all entrees, said Huling, who travels to universities around the nation for PETA.

He said heâÄôs seen options such as vegetarian barbeque riblets or dairy-free pumpkin pound cake at neighboring Midwest schools, some of which are setting the pace for vegan-friendly university dining.

âÄúA mistake that many schools make is not seeing the easy opportunity to veganize traditional dishes,âÄù he said.

âÄòCome a long wayâÄô

Unny Nambudiripad co-founded Compassionate Action for Animals as a University student more than a decade ago.

He said since 1998 âÄî when he graduated âÄî dining options for vegans and vegetarians around campus have âÄúcome a long way.âÄù

Though increased labeling of vegan options and expanded selections have been encouraging, Nambudiripad said many students still struggle in University dining halls.

âÄúI think thereâÄôs been really progress,âÄù he said. âÄúWeâÄôd like to see that in dorms as well.âÄù

Jennifer Prokuski agrees. She lived in a residence hall last year and said she often found herself resorting to eating cereal and pizza because of a lack of variety in vegetarian options.

When she and other CAA members contacted University Dining Services in October to discuss their concerns, she said UDS wanted to see a clear interest in expanding options, which is why they came up with the petition.

In an email response to one of the members of the group obtained by the Minnesota Daily, a UDS member said, âÄúWe are doing what we feel we can while still providing a varied menu available for all preferences.âÄù

UDS currently offers at least one hot vegan or vegetarian option per meal in residence halls, according to the email.

Nambudiripad said UDS has been open to ideas. He also said similar petition efforts have been frequent ever since heâÄôs been a student at the University.

He points out UDSâÄôs recent celebration of World Vegetarian Day on Oct. 1.

But the email from UDS suggests not all students have been happy about such efforts.

It reads, âÄúWhenever we have this promotion, we receive a certain amount of negative feedback for taking away so many meat options.âÄù

But Nambudiripad and CAA members are hopeful that attracting support from students will help them make the case for Meatless Mondays âÄî where one dining hall would go meat-free for one meal on Mondays.

Prokuski hopes to attract 300 signatures âÄî roughly 10 percent of superblock residents âÄî by the end of next week.

Sofia Huerter said she will take her petition to UDS along with Prokuski to demonstrate campus support and make the case for more vegan options. She will also bring along a PETA cookbook to give them a few ideas.

âÄúIâÄôm always surprised how many vegans I run into on campus,âÄù Huerter said. âÄúBeing a vegan in Minneapolis really isnâÄôt that difficult. Being a vegan at the University should be just as easy.âÄù