March 10, 2017 by Caroline McFarland and Jill Patel
Although Aramark has attempted to accommodate students with various dietary needs, including vegetarian and vegan, we do not believe they have enough options for those who do not eat meat to get a substantial amount of nutrition through their meal plans.
Being vegetarians our whole lives, we’ve noticed that the world has begun to adapt to the varying needs of vegetarians. Many restaurants have even begun to offer one or more meat-free options on their menus and provide vegetarian substitutions for certain dishes.
But we’ve found it’s not so easy to be vegetarians on Drexel’s meal plan.
Our freshman year at Drexel was accompanied by its own challenges of school and adjusting to being away from home. We never expected that, even though we had a meal plan, we would still struggle with food regularly.
Paying the sheer amount of money that we do to have a dining plan that is unethically mandatory for freshmen, we should hope it would include a variety of food for everyone. It is appalling that all incoming students have this expensive meal plan forced upon them, when it doesn’t accommodate certain dietary restrictions. In this case, it is a complete waste of students’ money.
Essentially, we are paying thousands of dollars to have a choice between salad, pasta, grilled cheese or pizza — every single day. How is that fair when people who don’t have restrictions have a multitude of other choices? Not only do these few options get tiring day after a few days, but many times they are made poorly and even then we cannot choose something else because the four options that we do have are all made in the same manner.
After the dining halls went through a change over winter break, we came back with expectations, which included having more options that are inclusive and healthy for vegetarians rather than just fatty foods.
Rather than making significant adjustments for vegetarians, all that was done was the addition of an extra veggie burger. Even then, certain food stations that used to offer a variety of vegetarian meals have now switched to only chicken and other meat foods. The opportunity for them to improve was not taken and once again, vegetarians were given the short end of the stick, forcing us to fend for ourselves as we hand over thousands of dollars.
Even in the case of nutrition, it is not news that college students lose their sense of health once they move away from home. Contrary to popular belief, being vegetarian is no exception. If we are eating only salads and sometimes decide not to because of how tired we get of them, it results in a loss of other vital nutrients and a balanced diet. If we decide to eat the cheese pizza and grilled cheese constantly, then we are getting no nutrients and only fat.
There is no in-between and it makes the college dining experience, in terms of health, that much worse for vegetarians. Shouldn’t a dining hall that is soliciting thousands of dollars, first off, adhere to a variety of dietary restrictions to be inclusive, but also be intelligent within their varieties to make sure that students get the right nutrients?
If vegetarians only have five items to choose from, how are they supposed to ever have a balanced diet utilizing this mean plan? Eating salads every single day is what we have been doing for two terms and it’s not good for us anymore. It doesn’t satisfy our hunger or our nutritional needs and we would like to be considered in terms of health.
So what can Drexel do to be more accommodating to the special dietary needs of vegetarians? First of all, they can start to offer simple substitutions for typical dishes that would include meat. Black beans are a cheap, nutrient-filled option that can be a good alternative to meat in many different meals. There are also many brands that produce vegetarian and vegan meat, which can be substituted into typical dishes like turkey sandwiches and chicken nuggets.
After Vegetate closed, we lost a main hub of vegetarian and vegan food. If another restaurant like Vegetate opened on campus, it would give students with special dietary needs another option if Drexel’s dining halls do not start becoming more accommodating.
It is not fair to students that the dining halls do not offer more vegetarian options. If more students could convey to Drexel that we need more choices when it comes to our dietary needs, maybe change will happen.