New vegan group hopes to expand options in dining halls

The student group was formed by U Dining and its first meeting is Friday.

Max Chao

Vegan students will soon be able to voice their campus dining concerns directly with University of Minnesota officials. 

On Friday, University Dining’s new vegan team will hold its first meeting, where students can share input and brainstorm potential solutions to the school’s lack of vegan food options.

The team was created by the University’s food vendor Aramark and its campus sustainability coordinator Haley Burns, who is a vegan herself, after a suggestion made at a Minnesota Student Association meeting. 

“We wanted it to be a platform for student voices,” Burns said.

Many vegans feel frustrated by the University’s mandatory meal plan policy, said junior Marina Kirkeide, president of vegan student group Compassionate Action for Animals.

Vegan students cannot eat most of the food offered, and the vegan options often run out quickly, leaving some students to eat dry cereal and toast daily for sustenance, Kirkeide said.

“It’s not very balanced and it’s frustrating,” she said. 

Aramark had been getting its own negative feedback on vegan options, which led it to explore ways to get students involved.

“We saw this opportunity and, coupled with the response that MSA was getting, it made sense to bring it together,” said Chris Elrod, district marketing manager for Aramark. 

Burns also plans for members of the new vegan team to keep a photo journal logging places they think vegan options could be improved. Entries will be reviewed at meetings to see if other members had similar complaints, she said. 

“We can directly hear their feedback and therefore implement things faster… It’s meaningful for us to have face-to-face conversations with students rather than less direct ones,” she said. 

New recipes would be relatively easy to implement at the University because all recipes would be pre-approved by Aramark, Elrod said. 

New food options wouldn’t be the only solutions, however. Some could be simple logistical fixes, such as not pre-plating as many vegan options so they don’t get cold, he said. 

The group’s Friday meeting will be held in 17th Ave. Residence Hall’s dining center at 10 a.m.