Medical concerns, a healthier diet and animal advocacy: there are many reasons to consider pursuing vegetarianism or veganism. Meat does not have to be given up entirely, however; Mark Lewis of the computer science department, isn’t completely vegetarian, as he has chosen to limit meat consumption for efficiency over ideology.
Lewis spoke with an first year student struggling to find vegetarian meals at Mabee Dining Hall.
“She got tired of eating sides all the time because they never have a vegetarian main course,” Lewis said.
This came in conjunction with his daughter, a vegetarian, dining at Mabee most of last summer. Despite her appetite for simpler meals, Lewis said “She also has [shared] she eats better as a vegetarian at Rice than what she could do at Trinity.”
Both of these encounters inspired Lewis to look into the opinions students have about the food options at Trinity. Some students, such as Brian Guenther, an engineering sophomore, arrived on campus with experience refraining from eating meat, as he has maintained his vegetarian diet for the past few years.
“I’ve been a vegetarian for almost six years now. I started this because I don’t like the idea of hurting animals,” Guenther said.
Time has made adopting a meat-free lifestyle easy, and Guenther’s optimistic outlook on vegetarianism extends to Trinity’s dining options.
“I’ve had a pretty good experience eating on campus. I think there are a lot of options. I actually like Taco Taco the most. I sometimes get a bean and cheese taco, or cheese enchilada filling with green sauce instead of meat sauce. The veggie quesadilla is pretty good too.”
Guenther has spent many years looking for creative meat-free meals, and has ultimately been pleased with his on-campus experience.
“I’m pretty happy with the options, but I guess maybe in Mabee they could have more. It seems like they’re working on trying to have more options this year, like weird tofu at the stir-fry. I can’t really complain, but maybe if you’re vegan, you can,” Guenther said.
Bella Dillman, a first year, became a vegetarian two years ago and experienced a very different Mabee than Guenther did. “It’s been pretty hard for me actually because salads are very monotonous, and the salads have also been sitting out for a long time, which stresses me out to eat them,” Dillman said.
Days upon days of similar meal items made Dillman disgruntled with the restrictive combinations for vegetarians and even more limited possibilities for vegans. “There are other options other than Mabee, but all the salads at the P.O.D. have meat in them, so I honestly just purchase bread and peanut butter and eat sandwiches every day,” Dillman said.
Guenther’s opinions lack the same allure for Dillman.
“One time, this girl commented “˜it just looks like you’re eating two salads,'” Dillman said.
Perspective can often change with experience, as sophomore Sarosha Hemani learned when she experienced the transition from meat to full vegetarianism this school year.
“I’m actually pretty new. I started being a vegetarian this summer for diet reasons, but I originally started by watching a bunch of videos like “Cowspiracy” and [decided] it’s not ethical,” Hemani said.
Although Hemani primarily began eating vegetarian last semester for health reasons, she has noticed significant changes in the food options since the Farmers Market arrived on campus, which have encouraged her transition.
“Comparing the food they had last semester to now, there’s definitely more vegetarian options, which is great,” Hemani said.
Other students have also initiated the transition to vegetarianism recently. Senior communication student Emily Williams became vegan last January for environmental sustainability reasons. Like Dillman, Williams doesn’t hold Mabee in very high esteem.
“You’re already eating in a repetitive eating environment; the food gets boring for anyone here. When you’re limited even more, there’s really only so much you can do to just mix it up,” Williams said.
Living off campus now, Williams prefers eating at places like the P.O.D. because their packaging lists all the ingredients. This allows her to make the most educated choices about the components of her meals
“Even when you’re eating at Mabee and get something custom made, there’s always random things [thrown] in that are a concern if you’re vegetarian or vegan, but also if you have an allergy. That’s the toughest thing. As a vegetarian, it’s easier to tell when an ingredient is clearly misplaced, but when you’re vegan, a lot of times there’s ingredients that you wouldn’t expect,” Williams said.
Like Williams, senior business major Jake Spitz is also vegan, except he’s kept up the diet for about 15 months. Spitz originally gave up meat and dairy to lose weight.
“Last summer I lost 50 pounds, and since then I’ve kept it all off. Once I got to my goal weight, however, I decided I would continue being vegan to reduce my environmental impact,” Spitz said.
Despite having one of the most stringent dietary restrictions, Spitz found the change to be rather painless, and has maintained his vegan diet since then.
“I think the most challenging thing is probably learning new recipes using tofu, but other than that, I think being vegan actually makes eating a whole lot simpler,” Spitz said.
He’s also learned to find other food options outside of Mabee, and now relies on other dining establishments for meals that fit his vegan lifestyle.
“Freshii was also a huge win for the vegan and vegetarian community,” Spitz said.
Individuals with dietary restrictions constitute a significant portion of the Trinity’s student body, and they hold many differing opinions on the quality and quantity of acceptable meals on campus. While some members of the community are pleased with the variety of options available, others encourage the dining establishments on campus to become more compatible for vegetarians and vegans. However, the same individuals generally hold the consensus that the university is ultimately moving towards a better and more health-conscious campus. For vegetarian and vegan dishes available on campus, students can check the Real Food on Campus at theTrinity University website.