Being vegan on a city campus

Students find ways to eat vegan on campus with an increase in healthy food options.

Vegan and gluten-free dining options are now more readily available thanks to the opening of the Happy Hippy, above. BRIANNA SPAUSE | PHOTO EDITOR

Nora Wilson, who has been vegetarian since she was 11 years old, never thought it would be possible for her to become vegan.

Wilson is among a number of Temple students who have found ways to cut meat and animal products from their diets on a college budget.

Wilson, a sophomore graphic design major, became vegan last April and said besides craving the occasional slice of pizza, she doesn’t “miss much.”

“I don’t even think about it really,” Wilson added. “It’s pretty second nature to me and it’s not even been a year.”

Like Wilson, sophomore Carolyn Bresnahan had a similar experience transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, not realizing how simple the change really was.

“It’s definitely something you have to do your research on,” Bresnahan said. “But it can be inexpensive as long as you shop in the right places. … You can still live a fully nutritious life and you can thrive off it.”

While some vegans like Wilson and Bresnahan have had an easy transition, many people view veganism as inaccessible for college students.

Happy Hippy founder and co-owner Justine Carmine serves healthy food options that appeal to the growing population of vegan students at Temple. The food stand is locted in the Student Center. BRIANNA SPAUSE | PHOTO EDITOR
Happy Hippy founder and co-owner Justine Carmine serves healthy food options that appeal to the growing population of vegan students at Temple. The food stand is locted in the Student Center. BRIANNA SPAUSE | PHOTO EDITOR

“I think people have a weird idea that being vegan is very expensive,” said Wilson, whose diet consists mostly of beans, rice, fruit and pasta.

Bresnahan lives off a $50 weekly budget for groceries, buying mainly raw foods like fruits, grains and beans. While fresh produce can be cheap at most stores, she adds that processed and packaged vegan food can be much more expensive, like vegan meats and cheeses and prepared meals.

Wilson said while veganism has become a rising trend, students are doing it for many different reasons. Animal welfare is the reason change for dietary reasons, environmental reasons or just to be trendy.

“Honestly I don’t really care what those reasons are, because it doesn’t matter why you’re doing it,” Wilson said. “The effects are the same whether or not it’s for a diet or anything else.”

While Wilson finds eating vegan relatively easy, she said eating on Main Campus can be “a little tricky,” so she usually packs a meal.

The sustainable, vegan-friendly food company Happy Hippy is hoping to change that. It was started by Justine Carmine and Nicole Beddow, a 2013 history and secondary education alumna, as a company aiming to make fresh, healthy food accessible for everyone, including college students.

The duo made their debut at Temple last January when they sold pre-packaged foods at the Student Center and in Morgan Hall. This year, Happy Hippy has expanded with a stand at the Student Center, serving hot, fresh food and smoothies.

“There’s a connotation that healthy food and vegan food are gross and it’s not appealing or going to be satisfying,” Carmine said. “I want everyone to see that it is accessible. … It’s all about putting the food in people’s mouths and having them see for themselves.”

In the coming years, Happy Hippy is looking to expand within Temple at Tyler School of Art and the School of Medicine, as well as at other Philadelphia schools and in wholesale at Whole Foods.

Carmine, excited about the expansion, said going vegan and eating sustainably is generally growing in popularity.

“The awareness is there now, especially with students,” she said. “Which is why I love working with students, because [they] are so aware of what you’re putting into your bodies.”

“[Students] are definitely the next generation where you’re going to be super aware and it won’t just be a trend, it’ll be a lifestyle, and the more people who feel it in their bodies, the better,” Carmine added.

Bresnahan attributes the trend partially to the use of technology and social media, saying sites like Facebook and Twitter help create dialogue and spread awareness about issues like animal welfare.

“It’s one of those things where a lot of people don’t want to hear about it, but since social media is something so prevalent in our society, it’s becoming more known whether you want to know about it or not,” Bresnahan said.

Carmine also hopes for Happy Hippy to serve as a resource for students to help spread awareness about the benefits of going vegan, as well as being a healthy food option.

“Out of everything I’ve done, [going vegan] is the best thing I could have done. … I feel great and I have so much energy,” she said. “This shouldn’t even be a trend. This should be a lifestyle.”

Emily Ralsten can be reached at

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