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The Triangle - The Independent Student Newspaper at Drexel University

Vegetarian dining options slim

In a city where vegetarianism is everywhere, how do Drexel’s on-campus meatless options stack up?

Drexel University is located in Philadelphia, the fifth-most populated city in the United States. With over a million and a half people inhabiting the city, it has become a mecca for everything new, hip, innovative and trendy. The city caters to all people, including those who choose to abstain from the consumption of meat, a practice that is really not so uncommon these days. It’s hard to walk even a few blocks without coming across at least one restaurant or takeout joint that offers vegetarian selections.

However, when Mike Sabin, a sophomore communication major with two years of vegetarianism under his belt, was asked what he thought of Drexel’s meatless options, he didn’t have many positive things to say. The options at Drexel’s dining hall are limited mainly to a salad bar and the occasional omelet station, which anyone would get tired of after a few weeks. If a dining plan is required by your university, why would you want to eat the same thing day after day while your peers are enjoying endless choices? A walk through Drexel’s Handschumacher Dining Center will show you pizzas, hamburgers, daily meat specials and a limited number of vegetarian items like French fries and grilled cheese sandwiches. Sabin wasn’t impressed.

“I was forced to go out and get my own food,” he said. “I didn’t want to be eating omelets, salads and fries all day.” In a dining hall with what seems like endless meat options, why are the vegetarian choices so limited?

In addition to Drexel’s dining hall, the University offers a selection of takeout options in the Northside Dining Terrace, located near the residence halls. Even with these additional choices of Subway, Chick-fil-A and Currito, Sabin still noted that the vegetarian options were unhealthy, subpar, and worst of all, overpriced. Currito offers a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but Sabin cheekily noted, “I’m in college. … I’m not 5 anymore.” When a vegetarian goes up to the sandwich creator at Subway, he or she receives crazy looks when she states over and over that, “Yes! I just want bread and veggies!” For students who pay between $33,800 and $41,500 per year just for tuition at Drexel University, one would think that vegetarians would be catered to a bit more. Noncarnivores are forced to leave campus either to go out to eat or shop for themselves. Bren King, a senior digital media major and five-year vegan, said, “The limited options at Drexel forced me to spend more money other places in order for me to maintain a normal diet.”

One interesting tidbit that Sabin touched upon was the vegetarian options presented during Drexel’s Accepted Students Days, the open-house weekends when students try to decide whether to attend Drexel or another school visit campus. During this time, vegetarian choices are plentiful and delicious, drawing students concerned about their eating habits toward Drexel. Obviously, universities want to try their hardest to impress students during those crucial days, but it is unfair to present misleading information about something as important as dietary restrictions. Maybe Drexel should hold itself to the standards it presents during the Accepted Students Days instead of declining drastically on days when there aren’t large groups of new or prospective students visiting.

Jackelyn Eliassen, director of Retail Management, said, “Retail Management, in partnership with Drexel Campus Dining, prides itself on the variety of vegan and vegetarian options available on campus.” She did not comment on the Accepted Students Days issue.

Looking for any redeeming vegetarian options, Sabin said that he actually really enjoys Drexel’s Farmers Market, which is held every Tuesday during the warmer months. While he usually shops at Trader Joe’s or Fresh Grocer, he makes an effort to stop and support the Farmers Market when it’s around. Though he enjoys the fresh produce option, King said, “The vegan and vegetarian options at Drexel are a poor reflection of Philadelphia’s cultural food diversity.”

Sabin and King, like many others, had an easier time maintaining a proper vegetarian diet when they no longer had a mandatory meal plan, which they both barely used.

“I started saving a lot more money and eating more healthy when I started doing the shopping and cooking for myself,” Sabin said.

Sabin and King agree wholeheartedly that the off-campus vegetarian options surrounding Drexel surpass the options of Drexel itself. University City offers various reasonably-priced grocery stores and even a decent amount of fresh farmers markets that are open through both warm and cold months. Several types of economical restaurants that cater to meatless diets are walking distances away from campus. According to Sabin, if you want to be the least bit healthy and not go broke, you should stay away from Drexel’s limited vegetarian options.

It seems like even though Philadelphia as a whole ranks high on the vegetarian lover’s scale, Drexel University certainly does not.

Morgan Dudkewitz is a Communications major at Drexel University. She can be contacted at op-ed@thetriangle.org.