By Lauren Bishop
According to the Vegan Society, in dietary terms, veganism is “the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” But veganism goes beyond the vegetarian diet to a lifestyle choice where vegans do not use animal by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, or soaps derived from animal products. Basically, to be vegan is to make a conscious decision to live a healthier, more ethical way of life in support of animal rights.
Over the years, our farms have turned into factories where animals are treated as units of production rather than living creatures. The inhumane treatment in slaughter houses, as seen in the documentary Food Inc., details the alarming ways farm animals are fed genetically modified grains and crammed together in filthy pens, kept alive in agony until butchering to preserve the meat. The bottom line is that the cruelty these animals suffer, from the time they are born in these industrialized farms to their inhumane butchering, is solely for profit and consumption.
Therefore, as the movement to expose animal cruelty—most widely campaigned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—has expanded from fur coats to food, you can see why vegan choices are becoming so popular, especially with college students looking for healthier, eco-friendly dining choices on campus.
But what about nutrition?
Despite what you may be thinking, the vegan diet is very high in fiber, protein, and nutrients, and lower in saturated fats and cholesterol. Vegans typically consume milk made from almonds, coconut, or soy, which limits the amount of unnecessary growth hormones they would inadvertently digest from dairy cattle. Quinoa, tofu, lentils, chickpeas, fruits, and nuts are packed with protein, and oats and grains, fats from coconut oil and olive oil, and vegetables are all much healthier than meats. Additionally, if you want to sweeten things up, real maple syrup and agave are great natural choices rather than processed sugar or bee honey.
Though this may seem like a boring list of foods, don’t knock it ’til you try it. Consider these options for creative vegan meals: freshly made cold-pressed juices, healthful juice shots, oat bowls with almond milk and blueberries, smoothie bowls topped with granola and banana, or tofu scramble with wheat bagel smeared with almond butter and coconut flakes. For lunch, a quinoa and edamame salad, lentil soup, or a veggie sandwich. Dinner might be tacos, quesadillas, stuffed peppers, mushroom ceviche…the list goes on. Even desserts can be vegan-friendly without eggs, diary, or honey. With a little creativity, anyone can cook up a delicious vegan meal.
What is it like to eat vegan at Rollins?
I am not a vegan or vegetarian, but I do prefer the vegan station over most of the other food served in the campus center. Some of my favorite meals have been stir fry, quesadillas, fajitas, and the veggie wraps, just to name a few. At the vegan station, the food is made-to-order, fresh and right in front of you, offering a little more flexibility to satisfy your cravings. Do not forget that the salad bar has many vegan options, as does the pasta bar. It is important to note that at the pasta bar, students are offered plain pasta with many options to dress it up, such as veggies and non-dairy vegan sauces.
If you have not already heard, Rollins has received an A rating from the nonprofit animal rights group Peta2 and is one of only two colleges and universities in Florida to earn the A grade for vegan dining options. It was also recently awarded “No. 40 of 75 Best Colleges in America for Food” by The Daily Meal, a definite credit to our dining hall’s vegan options, as the judging criteria included “healthy options” and “sustainability”.
Sodexo Campus Services performs amazingly well when compared to most colleges and universities, serving healthy and appealing meals with variety. At most universities, vegans might be limited to a veggie burger option, but at Rollins, Sodexo goes above and beyond to deliver a quality vegan dining experience for Rollins students.
I had the opportunity to speak with the head manager of Sodexo about the vegan offerings on campus. I was excited to learn the entire kitchen staff takes outstanding measures to assure that the vegan offerings are really vegan, down to the cooking utensils in the dining halls, which are color coded for each station. The vegan station is no exception. Using this method, staff can ensure the utensils that cut meat do not cut the vegetables.
It is important to note that Sodexo is serving both vegans and vegetarians. Satisfying a large population of people is challenging, especially when it comes to delivering quality meals for Rollins students from around the globe with varying habits and tastes. The vegan/vegetarian station options might have a cheese selection, and those who follow a vegan lifestyle can “hold the cheese.”
Could Sodexo do better delivering cruelty-free entrées? Of course, there is always room for improvement. Students who follow a vegan diet would like more vegan-friendly offerings such as soy cheese and more vegan breakfast options, such as tofu scramble or vegan pancakes. I have noticed that there are no vegan options for coffee drinkers. It would be nice to have soy or almond milk options alongside the creamers so vegans would not have to purchase a container of soy milk for their coffee. The same goes for a lattés in the Campus Center, although Dianne’s Café does offer vegan coffee. Hopefully, the Campus Center will catch on to providing soy or almond milk options at the coffee stations so that vegans will be able to purchase a latté at the same cost as a student that takes their coffee with cow’s milk.
The vegan offerings on campus are some of the best offerings that a student could ask for from a college dining hall. Though improvements can be made to the vegan dining experience on campus, Sodexo has made outstanding efforts to provide vegan students fresh and healthy options. I encourage students to let their voices be heard and offer suggestions to Sodexo to prepare new vegan meal choices at Rollins. Sodexo is here to ensure that students are happy and healthy, so if you have requests or suggestions, they will make every effort to prepare the meals. Just use the online request form on https://rollinscollege.sodexomyway.com/community/recipes.html.