The case for a vegetarian-themed dining hall

May 10, 2015, 8:11 p.m.

With campaigns for Meatless Mondays becoming more popular around campus, one might wonder what Stanford dining is doing to meet the demand for meatless dining options.

At this point in time, the dining halls are not set up to provide vegetarian meals to the whole campus in a Meatless Monday context. As a vegetarian, I have generally had a pleasant experience with the meatless options at the dining halls; however, being vegetarian on a college campus also comes with its challenges. The vegetarian options quickly become repetitive as the year goes on and I am often drawn to the salad bar as the best vegetarian option. Although I love salads, being limited to the salad bar does not satisfy my desire for variety in my daily dining experience.

On top of the redundancy of everyday vegetarian dining, I often feel forgotten about when the dining halls make extravagant meals for special occasions. I see my meat-eating peers being offered complex meat dishes while I am stuck with the usual vegetarian option.

Overall, Stanford dining does a good job trying to provide a diverse array of dining choices across campus to accommodate students from all backgrounds and taste preferences but there could be more effort to provide a diverse, creative array of dining options for vegetarian and vegans on campus.

Having a dining hall on campus that features unique vegetarian options would promote vegetarian dining both for the benefit of vegetarians on campus and students interested in trying out eating less meat.

From the Mexican/Latin American themed Cardinal Sage at Stern to the performance dining at Arrillaga, Stanford has themed dining halls for many different cultures and dietary needs. In these dining halls, the themed cuisine is offered every day and is centrally displayed. Although vegetarianism is not an ethnic culture, it is a popular food culture that is well liked amongst environmental and health advocates. Yet despite the prominence of vegetarianism on campus, evident by the vegetarian options in dining halls and the existence of vegan/vegetarian themed co-op houses, Columbae and Synergy, there is not a dining hall on campus that prominently features innovative vegetarian/vegan cuisine.

Many will say that there are already many vegan and vegetarian dining options on campus between the vegetarian options in the dining halls and the co-ops. But currently the co-ops don’t have enough capacity and the dining halls don’t have enough creativity. The students living in Synergy and Columbae cook for the members of their respective co-ops and don’t have the ability to cook for all vegetarian students on campus. The dining halls do have the capacity to feed all vegetarian students (and students looking for a meat free meal),  but the problem with relying on the dining halls as they are set up now is the lack of variety that is offered on a daily basis.

A vegan/vegetarian themed dining hall would offer the best of both of the current system. It would operate from a large kitchen with the capacity to serve many people at once, but it would also require a vegetarian chef to create a variety of interesting diverse meat and dairy free options. This would bring more creativity to vegan/vegetarian dining that the co-ops have but the dining halls lack.

By having a vegetarian-themed dining hall, Stanford would be able to more easily promote the environmental and health benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. Not only would a vegan/vegetarian dining hall be beneficial to meat and dairy free students, it would also give another Kosher option for Stanford students.

While uncommon, if Stanford was to have a vegan/vegetarian themed dining hall it would not be the only campus to do so. As a mid-sized school with many dining halls around campus, Stanford has the facilities to have a whole dining hall dedicated to vegan/vegetarian dining. There is a place for more creative vegan/vegetarian dining on campus. Along with Oberlin, Stanford recently won Peta2’s most vegan friendly college 2015.

But even as one of the most vegan friendly campuses in the country, there is still work to be done to make vegan and vegetarian students’ needs feel equal to omnivorous students.

Contact Asha Brundage-Moore at ashab1 ‘at’

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