Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Do you have questions about being vegan? Send them to Jo using this easy form. She would be happy to address your individual concerns as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy, practical applications, and living compassionately. Jo cannot respond to questions about nutrition or answer questions that have already been addressed in the Archives

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Dining Hall Dilemma

question.gif - 1.4 KI am a freshman in college who decided one week ago to go "cold-tofu." Our dining hall is not vegan-friendly because there is no demand for that type of food. I try to cook things when I can, but that isn't very often. I also want to make sure that I continue to eat enough. There are only side dishes offered for vegans and there aren't any desserts. What kind of things can I do to help change the dining hall? I also work in my dining hall. Is it unethical as a vegan to work for a business that uses animal products so freely?

answer.gif - 1.3 K You pose some excellent questions that confront a large number of college students today. Because students' schedules are generally very hectic and cooking facilities are often limited or nonexistent, it can be difficult to be a vegan on campus. Nevertheless, college students are one of the fastest growing segments of the vegan population and their influence has been astounding. Due to the efforts of student groups around the country, many colleges are now offering vegan, or at least vegetarian, options at most meals.

Probably the reason these alternatives aren't being provided at your school is because the staff does not see a demand for them from the student body. If you are the only person on campus who wants meat-free meals, then their rationale would appear to be justified. However, it's unlikely this is the case. Because there is strength in numbers, a group can be significantly more persuasive than a single individual. Banding together with other vegans and vegetarians on campus will give you much more leverage than you could muster alone.

Seek out other like-minded students and staff and make the issue as public as possible to stimulate interest. Here are some ideas for how you could go about this. You'll probably come up with a lot more of your own.

  • Circulate a petition around campus for vegan and vegetarian meals.
  • Prepare a library display of books and periodicals about veganism and vegetarianism.
  • Coordinate a school vegan/vegetarian society and recruit members by placing notices in the school paper, monthly calendars, and on bulletin boards. (If there is a vegetarian society or animal rights group in your city, solicit their help.)
  • Arrange a presentation by a nationally-recognized speaker.
  • Write an article for the school newspaper or a letter to the editor.
  • Organize a vegan potluck.
  • Do an on-air interview through your school radio station.
  • Host a vegan/vegetarian education conference.
  • Set up a booth at school events to hand out vegan literature.
  • Write and circulate a vegan newsletter.
  • Coordinate a screening of vegan- and vegetarian-related videos.
  • Provide vegan recipes for the food service managers (institutional-size recipes are available from the North American Vegetarian Society, P.O. Box 72, Dolgeville, New York 13329, telephone: 518-568-7970, e-mail:, or The Vegetarian Resource Group, P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203, telephone: 410-366-8343, e-mail:

If you find any professors who are also interested in vegan meals, they may be able to provide additional support and lend authority and validity to your efforts.

Even if it takes some time for your school to comply with your requests, the side dishes from the dining hall could still make up a meal, depending on what is offered. However, you are right to be concerned about getting adequate nutrition. If balanced meals are not available in the dining hall, you will be on your own for a while. As long as you have access to a refrigerator, regardless of how small, a burner, a pot or two, and maybe a toaster oven, you should be able to cook up a few dishes or heat up a few packaged or prepared foods. Instant soups, chili, mashed potatoes, and flaked beans and grains can be prepared in a moment's notice by just adding boiling water. Canned soups are easy to heat and are relatively inexpensive. You could have bagles, toast, or cold cereal, instant oatmeal, or other instant hot cereal grains for breakfast along with some fresh fruit, such as a banana or apple. For a snack, pack some fresh and dried fruit, trail mix, cereal or granola, vegan sports bars, pretzels, and juices and nondairy milks in aseptic packages. For lunch or dinner, you could have a sandwich with peanut butter and jelly or lettuce, a bean spread with crackers or bread, canned or instant soup (this is particularly convenient if the dining hall has hot water available for tea or other hot beverages), noodles with tomato sauce (easy to heat up in your room), a veggie burger or vegan hot dog on a bun, a cold pasta or vegetable salad, a whole wheat tortilla stuffed with veggies from the salad bar, and/or a few of the hot or cold side dishes that are provided. If you have access to a natural food store or well-stocked supermarket, you may find handy prepared items such as spinach pies, vegan burritos, bean dips, and salads. If there is a fast food restaurant near campus, you could order a plain baked potato or make one in your room or apartment. They're surprisingly good with just ketchup and can be very filling when topped with a thick bean soup, spread, baked beans, or tofu sour cream. Most natural food stores have lots of portable vegan desserts such as sweet muffins, cookies, and pudding cups, as well as frozen nondairy desserts. But these can often be costly and are frequently not the most nutritious choices. If you have access to an oven, you could occasionally host a baking party with a few friends and make some special vegan treats to share.

New vegans are often very enthusiastic about their decision, but they may also be overwhelmed with all the changes they need to make. Adding one more ordeal, such as switching jobs, can overburden some people. Occupation is indeed an ethical consideration for vegans, and if you feel your work promulgates the use of animal-based foods, then you may want to consider working elsewhere. On the other hand, you may be able to more actively participate in the decision to include of vegan options in the dining hall if you remain in your present capacity. As long as you are aware of the conflicts between your work and your beliefs, and are conscious of your priorities, you will be able to determine where you can be most effective.

Most vegans find working around meat and other animal products to be disturbing, upsetting, and at odds with their ethics. But each person must weigh all of the factors in light of her or his own circumstances. You may want to implement all the changes you can in the dining hall and then move on once you are confident they are securely in place. You may want to continue to work in the dining hall but move into a different position that deals only with the vegan food choices. Or, if you feel too uncomfortable, you may decide to look for another job and go about establishing vegan options from a vantage point outside of the dining hall.

Many vegan college students have been incredibly successful in making lasting changes on their campus -- changes that will impact the school and its students long after they have graduated. You have a daunting task ahead of you, but with determination and grit, you'll be able to attain a higher standard of peace and compassion for your school -- a legacy as vital as your scholastic achievement.

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