Vegetarian students are at risk without options

By Chantelle Hicks, Columnist

Hi, my name is Chantelle. I’m a vegetarian and I don’t only eat vegetables.

When the food I eat first comes up to discussion I’ve gotten responses like, “Oh you don’t like chips?” or “Man it must be hard to only eat veggies.” Those responses might seem a bit extreme or rare, but they happen more than you think.

The constant perception of vegetarians having an all-veggie, all-the-time diet couldn’t be further from the truth and the dining halls here at the University also hold these same ideas. Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. Our dining hall has pretty good food for a college campus, but what really bothers me is the lack of vegetarian options.

By options, I mean a real variety, as in having at least one dish of substance in the hotline. Last year I lived in Illinois Street Residence Hall and the dining hall never had food I could eat. There would be certain days where the dishes didn’t include meat, but most of the week I was stuck eating salads or whatever hot veggies were being served that day.

Don’t get me wrong I felt very healthy, but because there were never many non-meat options I went to Chomps almost every day to get a black bean burger or something deep fried.

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    My story is one of thousands of American vegetarian students. But the issue is much bigger than me not having vegetarian options. When vegetarians don’t have access to enough properly nutritious foods they are put at a higher risk for becoming overweight or obese. Many people are under the impression that being vegetarian is equal to always consuming a healthy diet; but, because we don’t have as many tasty options in the dining hall, we are forced to go to places like Chomps to get an order of fries and onion rings.

    Vegetables are very good, but often they don’t satisfy my hunger and I want something that has more substance. I’m sure you may be thinking that everyone has the freedom to choose what they want to eat and should be held responsible for their choices. However, when there aren’t enough options it makes it harder to become full. If you eat a meal and never feel full, it just causes an increase in the amount of times you eat and the quantity, hence why so many vegetarian students are overweight.

    Some dining halls across campus offer a better variety of vegetarian options than others. For example, there is “Field of Greens” at the Lincoln Avenue Residence dining hall that opens for lunch and dinner, and it has plenty I can eat. However, it specifically closes at 6:30 p.m., which is two hours earlier than the other sections of the dining hall. Because of that, it doesn’t work with my schedule. I also live on the other side of campus and it’s hard to make it over there in time to enjoy the food.

    I encourage the University to take into consideration students with specialized diets. The need for more options goes beyond preference, because many college students’ health is at risk. Allow more options and take one step toward eliminating this problem on our campus.

    Chantelle is a sophomore in Media.

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