Students petition for a sustainable-food-themed dining hall

Oct. 16, 2015, 5:15 a.m.

A petition for a sustainable-food-themed dining hall has garnered student support as the ASSU considers a Senate resolution to transform an existing dining hall.

The new dining hall would primarily serve vegetarian food with one meat entree per meal in halal and kosher form.

ASSU Senator Matthew Cohen ’18, who co-authored the resolution, said that 150 people have signed the petition, 140 of whom said they would “often” or “always” eat at the dining hall. The petition has seven co-sponsors, including animal welfare, environmental sustainability and Islamic and Jewish student groups. In addition, over 900 students have pledged to exclusively eat meatless food on Mondays.

This resolution is a prime example of student government working for Stanford students,” Cohen said. “I hope that the University will listen to the clear voice of the students and create this dining hall to accommodate students’ vegetarian and sacred religious dietary practices.”

Cohen said he plans to introduce the resolution to the Senate on Oct. 20, and a vote will take place on either on Oct. 27 or Nov. 3. Cohen said he is confident that the resolution will garner the 10 votes, or two-thirds approval in the Senate, needed to pass.

If the resolution passes, Cohen said the next steps would be to work with Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) and the University in order to implement the change. Cohen hopes that getting more co-sponsors and signatures on the petition will help achieve his goal of having the new dining hall available for the next academic year.

I definitely think the University will respond once there’s an official resolution, in some sort of capacity,” Cohen said. “But at the same time, we’re going to have to really start drumming up student support to show how many students really want this.”

R&DE director of communications Jocelyn Breeland ’81 said they are receptive to student input and plan to invite the authors of the resolution to meet with Eric Montell, the executive director of R&DE Stanford Dining, and Dara Olmsted Silverstein, R&DE Stanford Dining sustainable food program manager.

We look forward to hearing from the students directly and collaborating with students on any possible action that might result from our conversations,” Breeland wrote in an email to The Daily.

Breeland also pointed out that Stanford’s existing dining halls already offer vegetarian and vegan food, as well as halal meat upon request. For students who sign up in advance, kosher options are provided three dinners per week in Florence Moore Dining.

Cohen said that although the shift to sustainability is primarily motivated by the desire to expand dining options for those with restrictive food diets, it also addresses health and environmental concerns.

“It really shows that Stanford is responding to the drought besides just shutting off the water fountains,” Cohen said. “Meat is incredibly water-intensive. It’s truly astounding, and you can get the same amount of protein in tofu or other non-meat options with far fewer gallons of water going into making them.”

As president of People for Animal Welfare, David Kay ’16 helped draft the resolution along with Cohen and Emma Fisher ’17 over the summer. He emphasized that animal welfare is a pressing issue on which students can have a big impact.

“The average American’s diet results in the death of about 400 farm animals each year, and so choosing to eat a meal at a mostly vegetarian dining hall makes a huge difference in preventing animals from living these torturous lives,” Kay said.

Kay added that the dining hall would not be exclusive to vegetarians, and he hopes that it will allow meat eaters to make “incremental changes” that they feel comfortable with in order to reduce their meat consumption.

Roberts Mencis ’18, a student who signed the petition, echoed Kay’s sentiments about the impact of creating a sustainable dining hall.

“The more students that eat sustainable food and the more universities that switch to sustainable food, it all adds up,” Mencis said. “Ultimately, even if it’s not overnight, it makes a big difference.”


Contact Deepti Kannan at dkannan ‘at’

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