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Veg Out: How Local Colleges Stack Up in the Vegan Food Department

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How Capital Region Colleges Stack Up in the Vegan Food Department

Vegetarian and Vegan Options for College Students

Vegan Black Bean Burgers. Photo Courtesy Four Green StepsMost of us have had our turn as college students, eating fast food and late night pizza delivery to survive cram sessions by night, and dashing through dining rooms grabbing whatever could tide us over while rushing to the next class by day.  These situations most likely occurred without much thought.

But what about the conscious eater? How does a vegan navigate their way through the day with limited offerings in the cafeteria? Are there options for our future veg leaders and professionals that go beyond PB&J and salad?

Recently, Peta2 launched their Most Vegan-Friendly College Contest 2011. The contest, with March-Madness-style brackets, has been moving many colleges to rethink their menus and accommodate a veg-lifestyle by adding items like tofu, tempeh and an array of new grains and veggies to their dining rooms. The winners this year were UC Santa Cruz and Northwestern.

How did Capital Region schools stack up?

“Most of the colleges in the Albany/Upstate NY area are just like the colleges across the nation, they offer some vegan options, but none of them are great and therefore none made the most vegan-friendly colleges list produced by Peta2,” says Ryan Huling, Manager of College Campaigns & Outreach, Peta2 (PETA’s young adult division). “However, three Upstate NY schools – Cornell, Syracuse and the University of Rochester- have FANTASTIC vegan options.”

According to a study by food-service provider Bon Appétit, the number of college students who identify themselves as vegetarian has risen by 50 percent since 2005, and the number of vegan students has more than doubled during the same period.

Many students now have a heightened awareness of the negligent care and preparations involved in the mass production of animals raised for food. They are not only seeking healthier and cruelty-free alternatives, but, demanding it. Here are what some local colleges are doing with this trend that shows only continued growth in the future.

Tofu Cheese. Photo Chichi Wang/Serious Eats”Vegan cuisine is a key component of our dining program at Sage,” says Michelle Schifley, General Manager for Sodexo at the Sage Colleges. “We offer vegan variations of nearly all prepared-to-order recipes in both resident dining and retail operations and regularly feature at least two vegan entrée specials at meals. Most sides and starches are prepared vegan, further expanding the options available. The core menu also includes popular favorites, such as vegan dogs, black bean burgers, eggplant Philly “steaks”, hummus tabouleh wraps, tofu cheeses, and even Vegan Whipped Topping.”

Schifley continues: “We work closely with the entire campus community, including the campus wellness center, nutrition science students, the vegan vegetarian dining committee, and our Sodexo district registered dietitian to grow our program, respond to changing needs, and provide support to patrons choosing to live a vegan lifestyle.” Schifley also proudly points out that Sage opened a new vegan and vegetarian platform in resident dining that offers a large assortment of beans, whole grains, vegan proteins and salad specials. Their chef launched a “cook your own” component in November 2011.

Chef Jackie Baldwin, CEC, Executive Chef at Rensselaer notes that although they have less than 3% of the student body ordering vegan dishes, they have a database of 172 recipes and are working hard at testing and creating new recipes depending on that need.

“We offer at least one daily vegan dish at all of our dining outlets. We offer some unusual grains as a base for Seitan and tofu based dishes, such as Red Quinoa and Thai Purple sticky rice.” Baldwin also related that she is not sure where Rensselaer ranks among other Capital Region area colleges, but says they have a larger campus than most which helps them to produce a variety of vegan dishes.

It looks like Capital Region schools are right on track with the growing conscious eating trends and hopefully they will make an appearance on the Peta 2 bracket in the coming years.

Special thanks to — The Web’s Most Complete Resource for University, College and Career Search — for their help with the information in this article.

Nicole M. Arciello Berhaupt is an Assistant Editor for The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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