A recent survey, conducted by the youth branch of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), called peta2, gave Binghamton University a failing grade for vegan friendliness on campus, butDirector of Auxiliary Services Peter Napolitano and Sodexo General Manager Paul Kerns both disagreed with the legitimacy of this grade, and the survey as a whole.
“In the state of New York, there were 12 pages of schools … seven out of the 12 — and there were about seven or eight schools on each page — all had Fs,” Kerns said.
The peta2 survey tested different universities on eight separate topics: labeling vegan entrees, labeling vegan desserts, including a vegan member on its student advisory board, promoting vegan options, partnering with students to distribute vegan food, participating in “Meatless Mondays,” offering an all-vegan station and having an all-vegan dining facility.
“Do we label vegan items? Yes. Do we have vegan desserts? Yes. Promote vegan options? We probably could do a little better in that area. Partner with students to distribute vegan foods? I don’t think so, but it’s available. Participate in ‘Meatless Mondays’? We have done that. But if you take a look at the set of questions, you’d see that we’re participating in at least four or five out of the seven; that would give us a higher grade,” Napolitano said.
Lindsay Gilmore has been vegan since 2011 and said that the availability of vegan options on campus factored into her decision to come to BU.
“Living in CIW is the best option for a vegan, I really lucked out with that. Mark makes yummy food at the all-vegan station,” said Gilmore, an undeclared freshman. “On the other hand, when I eat at other dining halls, the struggle is real. It gets frustrating trying to find a ‘real’ meal to eat. I end up resorting to the salad bar, which, as a vegan, is the last place I want to go. I usually stick to lunch and dinner at CIW and eat breakfast in my room because the vegan breakfast options are lacking.”
Joseph Leeson-Schatz, director of speech and debate at BU, commented that while the dining hall options are on the expensive side for those without meal plans, there are plenty of acceptable options for vegans on campus.
Leeson-Schatz has been a vegan for 12 years, himself eating on campus about once a week. He acknowledged that while the University Union previously offered a wide array of options, the Food Co-op on campus provides both food choices as well as a welcoming community to vegans and vegetarians.
Improvements in vegan-friendly options are not the only stride being taken for students with diet limitations.
“We just opened our Simple Serving Platform at C4, which is focused on the top allergens. So there are no egg products, no dairy products, we stay away from tree nuts, shellfish, gluten-free,” Kerns said.
But despite Kerns’ and Napolitano’s assertions about the improvements being made at the dining halls, not everybody agrees, especially concerning being vegan-friendly.
Carly Schneider, a sophomore majoring in computer science and a cook at the Food Co-op, commented on the state of the vegan-friendly options in the dining halls.
“I think for the vegetable servings are miniscule, and they tend to not taste very good — they’re not cooked well,” Schneider said. “It’s extremely hard to be a vegan at Sodexo. I think it’s easier for a student to be a vegetarian at Sodexo. If your only option is a veggie burger and it’s disgusting, there’s nothing to eat.”
Schneider is not the only person with this idea. Chirag Raparia, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry, agreed that the vegan-friendly system could use some work as well.
“Sodexo vegetarian food doesn’t have much variety, and it doesn’t really taste that good,” Raparia said. “They try to be healthy, but they could do a much better job in terms of variety.”
Both Sodexo managers and Auxiliary Services say they are trying to improve the state of the vegan and vegetarian options at the dining halls.
“Over time, out of our 3,000 recipes, 600 of our recipes on campus qualify as vegan. We go out and check the menu of the week to see how many items out of the menu or that we offered are vegan,” Kerns said.