Options for vegans scarce

Marlena Skrobe//Co-Photoeditor
Marlena Skrobe//Co-Photo editor

Vegetarians and vegans at the University of Miami are requesting a short order from their dining halls: to bring a greater variety of vegan food options to UM.

Ten days ago students held a rally with PETA’s young adult division, peta2, and gathered 1,586 signatures (about 10 percent of the student population) in support of vegan food options on campus.
“When I started here last year I was blown away by the lack of vegan options,” said Blake Simmons, a sophomore led the rally and who has been vegan.
“They have veggie burgers, but I just have to hope that they’re vegan,” he said.
Simmons’ short term goal at UM is to have the dining halls provide vegan students with one healthy complete meal every day. Eventually, he hopes to have a variety of vegan options.
According to Ryan Huling, a peta2 representative who has worked closely with Simmons, it is difficult to quantify the number of students that are vegan or vegetarian. Yet Aramark, one of the top food providers in the United States, found in a survey that one in four college students is actively seeking vegan options.
“This is really a students’ right issue more than an animal cruelty issue,” Huling said.
Simmons, for example, eats one meal from the dining halls about twice a week. He is on the lowest meal plan which consists of eight meals per week, but it is still a significant expense at $1,914 per semester.
“The meal plan is a huge waste of money if I can’t eat there,” Simmons said.
For the rest of his meals Simmons, who lives in Mahoney, shops at Whole Foods, which caters to his needs in a way the dining halls do not.
Freshman Leela Mundra faces a similar dilemma. She is a vegetarian and is allergic to yeast, but still frequents the dining halls.
“I go twice a day just to socialize with friends, but I do bring a lot of my own food,” Mundra said. “It’s not really worth having my dining hall package.”
Since she does not have a kitchen in her dorm, Mundra has been making a lot of salads. For prepared food that she can microwave, she relies on a buddy system where she trades frozen meals and snacks with a friend who is also vegetarian.
After discovering that the veggie meatballs on her pasta at the dining hall were made of rolled-up corn flakes instead of a protein substitute, Mundra has been wary of the nutrition she is receiving at school.
Still, she said the dining halls have been eager to help her out, offering to bring in yeast-free bread for students with allergies. UM’s food and auxiliary services were unavailable to comment on this story.
“They’re struggling to provide decent vegetarian food, but they’ve shown interest in providing it,” Mundra said.
Mundra, who serves as the College of Arts and Sciences senator for Student Government, is writing a bill in support of what she calls the “vegan movement.” Under discussion is the contract for food court vendors that will soon be up for reevaluation.
Students like vegan senior Christine Berzak are looking forward to these changes.
“I’m excited for higher quality, organic options that are simpler and healthier,” Berzak said.

Alexandra Leon may be contacted at aleon@themiamihurricane.com.