With classes in full-swing for students across the country, for many this time of year also means a return to eating cafeteria and vending machine fare. But, with more information and resources at their fingertips than ever before, students are increasingly demanding healthier, more humane and more environmentally conscious cafeteria options – instead of choices like ramen.
In recent years, and in response to an epidemic of obesity, there has been a increased focus on dietary education, helping students understand the dramatic impact their fork makes on their health, the environment and on animals. Programs like Meatless Monday, Food Corps, and Farm to School are all helping connect the dots between our diets and our worsening health, our degrading environment and the tragic lives of factory farmed animals.
Which is why it should surprise no one that a few weeks ago the foodservice marketing research firm, Technomic, released a report showing that 21% of college students now limit their meat consumption by sticking to a vegetarian or vegan diet, cutting out certain types of meat, or eating meat only occasionally. The report also showed that while 44% indicated that their school’s dining program was somewhat important in deciding where to enroll, only 32% said their school does a good job of making sure students are pleased with their overall dining program. Those kind of numbers also help make increased vegan options a healthy business decision for food service providers.
Enter Mean Greens, the new all-vegan dining hall at University of North Texas. Complete with vegan soft-serve ice cream, Mean Greens opened after much demand in, of all places, cattle country. And it’s not just cattle country schools adding vegan food, Meatless Mondays are now practiced in colleges, universities and K-12 school districts.
Take Action: If your school cafeteria isn’t yet offering delicious vegan options, check out this Veganize Your Cafeteria guide, or this Meatless Monday Campus Kit and organize a campaign. Need some easy steps to get started? Consider just letting others know that you’re veg by putting a pro-veg sticker on your laptop, water-bottle, or messenger bag and get a few pro-veg t-shirts to occasionally wear in place of your favorite band tee. You’ll be surprised at how many vegans and veg-inquisitive people you meet just by wearing a t-shirt. More vegans speaking up and connecting with each other means more demand for vegan food!