The Vegan Corner in the Johnson and Hardwick Cafeteria lives an existence ostracized from more respectable food groups there. There are individually-wrapped slices of soy cheese, warmed to room temperature. Vats of textured soy protein, flavored as tuna or chicken, submerged in an inch of yellowish water. Hummus is either runny or frozen into a tan clump. Stale pitas. Rice and soy milk, past the sell by date. Not too appetizing.
As a dietary vegan, I was disappointed when I walked into the cafeteria last year for my first meal. Of course, as most vegans, I had been disillusioned in the past by food selection at most restaurants, settling for a dry baked potato, salad or assorted vegetable side dishes.
Friends at Bucknell, Cornell and even Penn State have described vegan smorgasbords: tofu based entrees, soy ice cream and vegetable wraps. I know better, but expected at least a small quantity of vegan foods that could be supplemented with other vegetable, pasta and bread choices.
I expected some support, in the form of readily available nutritional information and ingredient lists, or at least an acknowledgment that some concerned eaters may want to know what is in the food. But my expectations have fallen short.
The dining center at the Student Center does not offer a better selection, either. The best a vegan can do is get a dressing-less salad or a Portobello mushroom sandwich, after removing the slice of cheese. Even the salad dressings there all contain dairy or egg products.
Last year, I made meals out of side dishes, and pounded vitamin supplements to make up for the nutritional deficiencies of the food. It was not a healthy way to live. Veganism is not inherently unhealthy, but when a vegan’s diet is restricted to foods poor in calcium, protein, fiber and other necessary nutrients, there are health risks.
Every time I look at the comment board at the cafeteria, it is often filled with suggestions or complaints from vegans and vegetarians. However, I have not seen an improvement in the vegan section or in the quality of the food offered.
Dining Services is responsible for accommodating many different dietary choices. Yet it seems that vegans are not being serviced appropriately. At the very least, a daily entrée would not be too much to ask for, or for vegan-friendly foods such as marinara sauce to be labeled.
Many students have complained about the lack of nutritional information and ingredient lists at the dining centers and it is the right of any student to know what they are consuming. Hopefully, Dining Services’ new policy to post publicly nutritional information and ingredient lists will help.
Temple has many students who follow a vegan diet. Dining Services has a responsibility to serve all Temple students, carnivorous or not, equally.
Silas Chamberlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.