Vegetarian, vegan options must improve

By Taylor Powell

Approximately 7.3 million Americans are considered vegetarians in the United States, according the Vegetarian Times website.  Additionally, 22.8 million people say that they follow a vegetarian-inclined diet, or eat minimal meat.

Yet vegetarians often become a secondary thought behind individuals who do not have special dietary needs. Vegetarian and vegan options in dining establishments are, in most cases, seen more as an amenity then a requirement. The same seems to be true at Butler University.

Butler Dining Services is continually improving and changing its processes to accommodate special dietary needs, according to its Special Dietary Needs Policy. However, Dining Services continues to lack sufficient creative vegetarian and vegan options that provide more than vegetables and grains for its students.  Vegetarians need proteins to sustain a healthy diet.

“We always have options available,” said Michelle Bryant-Jones, Butler’s senior food service director. “Some of these options are: Legumes, rice, quinoa, barley, tofu, vegan lunch meats, vegan cheeses… (and) the Boca burger is always available at the deli.”

As a vegetarian, I found it difficult to locate any vegan meats or cheese, and Boca burgers are continually out of stock. If the dining hall was out of some type of staple meat, the instance would be a huge deal, or perhaps might never even happen. There is a lack of understanding that these type foods are vegetarians’ and vegans’ staples, and they should always be available where dining services says they are.

Finding these vegetarian and vegan options in the dining hall should not require so much effort, if they really are always provided.

“Many times, students don’t know or don’t ask what their options are,” Bryant-Jones said.

Students with special diets should not always have to ask what foods they are able to eat. Dining halls is usually crowded with long lines, and students do not necessarily have the time to ask questions about what foods are made of and cooked beside.

Instead, the dining halls could be more transparent with student options.  Not all food is labeled and its full list of ingredients listed on the sneeze guard.

Select dishes are made with chicken stock and other animal byproducts that vegetarian and vegan students may not realize. If they forget to ask, students could be consuming food against their special diet.

Not all special diets are due to choice. Some are due to religious beliefs and medical issues.

If other students do not have to ask what is in the food, neither should the vegan and vegetarian population.