After Binghamton University received a failing grade for vegan friendliness from peta2, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) youth division, we had to sit down and consider just what it means to be a vegan-friendly campus, and why that should matter.
The vegan lifestyle of cutting out all animal products, such as meat, cheese or eggs, may sound extreme, but eating vegan foods does not necessitate a lifelong commitment. Some people just want to be healthier or even try a more environmentally sensitive meal once in a while. For those who appreciate veganism’s benefits, and all the more so for those sincerely committed, Sodexo’s offerings are lackluster.
We are not asking for more options for vegan students. We are asking for more vegan options for all students.
Currently, College-in-the-Woods Dining Hall boasts a vegan station, serving meals just for lunch and dinner. The Food Co-op, all the credit to them, is independent and student-run and offers organic, and usually vegan, hot lunch every weekday. Still, it’s clear that living a vegan life isn’t all that compatible with living on campus.
Sodexo can and should make vegan food available on a consistent basis in every residential dining hall. And no, the salad bar doesn’t cut it. The reopening of the University Union Food Court also holds promise. Though major plans have certainly already been drawn up, it’s not too late to include vegan options alongside the main offerings.
Importantly, by Sodexo making vegan food more accessible, students who don’t identify as vegan will also be given the chance to experiment with their dietary choices. College is, after all, a time for intellectual and personal experimentation and growth. Shouldn’t our dining halls support the healthiest ideals to which students might aspire? At what point did chicken fingers and grilled cheese, no matter how affordable or convenient, become the common denominator?
Sodexo, it seems, is still stuck in the mind-set of treating veganism like an allergy, a collection of limitations to be negotiated.
We are not interested in a collection of short-lived, green-washed accommodations for a niche group of students, so much as a health-conscious, environmentally sensitive approach to eating. And with Sodexo as the only option for on-campus students living at the mercy of their meal plans, making the move is really up to them.
It’s important that a more vegan-friendly approach is implemented, but not because of some campus rating system. We’d like to see more vegan options for all students because we believe in sustainability and we believe in enabling students to live as healthily as they choose to. In other words, veganism, the way we see it, is not something to be tolerated, but a way of living we could all afford to test out.