Veggie tales: Students talk about being vegetarian on campus
The Justice talked to students about their opinions on Brandeis's tofu-oriented dining options.
There is no greater relief for a vegetarian at Brandeis University than to see the little “V” symbol while scanning the television screen menus in the dining hall. Similarly, for vegans, the little carrot symbol may provide comfort and excitement when trying to find dining options on campus. Seeing the rising concern for the global climate crisis, many people have been changing their lifestyle choices to include less red meat or no meat at all; in pescatarian, vegetarian, or even vegan diets.
To investigate the school’s commitment to providing adequate meal choices for the student body, I set out to interview students and employees in Sherman’s dining hall. I first spoke with Kenny, a Harvest Table worker, who said the school is doing more than enough to ensure that students have enough options for their dietary restrictions. He said that, in reality, the problem is that Brandeis does not have many students who have significant food allergies or strict veganism lifestyles. He also said that they are doing well with the few people that actually need these specific accommodations. In general, Kenny said, they keep vegetarian and vegan options in mind when serving food and creating menus, and will normally group them together.
I then spoke with a current student, Batya, who did not provide her last name or class year. Back at home, Batya was accustomed to the vegetarian lifestyle: she and her family have been vegetarian since she was eight years old. Batya generally uses the Kosher side of Sherman in order to get dairy products and not so much for protein that does not involve meat.
Zoe, a freshman at Brandeis who also did not provide her last name, said that she could normally rely on being able to access vegetarian meals back at home. Zoe actually prefers the vegetarian selection choice at Brandeis compared to the options she had back at home. As someone who is vegetarian and not vegan, she would prefer that the vegetarian options remain separate, such as when vegan cheese is used on non-meat products. Overall, Zoe says that she can reliably find meal options on campus.
I also met with a current freshman, who wished to remain anonymous. They are currently exploring becoming a vegetarian and determining if this lifestyle is right for them. “If I wanted a vegetarian option, I would have to cook the food myself. My family loves eating meat so it is hard making a dish without it,” they said.
When asked about the availability of suitable meal options, they stated that, “There are always food options available [to them] and [they] can always completely avoid meat if [they] really wanted to.”
Ava Repole ‘27, has been a vegetarian for about 4 to 5 years. They said that the options at Brandeis compared to the options back home are better and, “there’s more for [her] to choose from and on the meal plan, [they] do not have to prepare items themself. There’s a lot to choose from and [they] do not have to be stuck with a salad for every meal.” She also shared that before coming to Brandeis, they have not had many tofu options before.
Adam Gould ‘27, has been eating a plant-based diet for over a decade. He began his new lifestyle at the age of seven because he “thought animals were ugly.” Becoming accustomed to his new eating habits, his family began making adjustments to his lifestyle and made an effort to include meals without meat products. Gould felt that there were times where the dining halls could easily provide a non-meat alternative to a meal they are serving, such as the breakfast sandwiches at Sherman’s Farm Table. He also told us that, “as someone who tried to both keep kosher and vegetarian, it is difficult to find options without carb loading.”
Ultimately, most of the students I spoke with seemed satisfied with the dining options offered at Brandeis. Harvest Table’s Brandeis website states, “we take a dynamic, collaborative approach to meeting special dietary needs and encouraging active participation in making healthy choices,” implying that even for those dissatisfied with current options, offerings will continue to shift and change.