National Vegetarian Awareness Month brings vegetarian options to campus


The Red Herring, located at 1209 W. Oregon St. in Urbana, is one option on campus for students seeking vegetarian meals. October is National Vegetarian Awareness Month. 

By Aaron Navarro

The student-initiative Sustainability Chopped Competition is being held Wednesday night in Field of Greens at Lincoln Avenue Residence Halls during dinner hours. The “secret ingredient” will be based on a vegan and vegetarian diet. All four groups of competitors received a pantry list on Tuesday and will get a mystery basket at the beginning of the competition, according to Executive Chef Carrie Anderson.

October is a special month designated to vegetarians nationwide. In light of that, all six dining halls are preparing new dishes and activities for vegetarian students on campus throughout the entire month. 

LAR, arguably the most vegetarian-friendly unit on campus, is hosting the Chef’s Table event on Oct. 15. Usually, the Chef’s Table is focused around local and seasonal ingredients and is an event that allows students an exclusive opportunity to watch chefs prepare a meal before them in a more formal dining experience. Students can text “TXTCHEF” and their name to 55744 between now and Friday to win a seat at the Chef’s Table. However, this month students can expect chefs to highlight vegetarian-only ingredients in honor of National Vegetarian Awareness Month.

Among classes, meet-ups, and study sessions, it can be hard for vegetarians to prepare three meals a day that do not consist of mostly instant pasta and crunchy peanut butter. Ethel Liao, senior in Business, said what she misses most about eating in the dining halls is the variety of vegetarian food she can’t get at home.

Liao became a vegetarian during her freshman year at Busey-Evans. She’s always had a strong interest in the environment, but what really pushed her to eat meat-free are the dining halls’ vegetarian food labels. Every entree at each dining hall labels their food if it’s vegetarian, vegan or local. That way, it’s easier for students to load their plate, eat and still make it to class on time.

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Being a vegetarian on a college campus means you might have to get creative sometimes. Julia Komrska, sophomore in DGS, said that her favorite vegetarian meal from the dining hall consists of meat-free tacos, which she makes herself at Illinois Street Residence Halls, one of the lesser veg-friendly dining halls.

“You can always ask any member of our staff for ideas or suggestions because we have a lot of different components, and sometimes it’s hard for people to put things together in a creative way to kind of satisfy whatever they have a taste for,” Anderson said. “We’re always happy to help people put things together.”

Each dining unit on campus gets to choose how they’re going to celebrate National Vegetarian Awareness Month. Dining halls at Ikenberry Commons and Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Halls are adding a new vegetarian dish or ingredient every day for the entire month.

Florida Avenue Residence Halls is having an all-vegetarian dinner on Oct. 22. The dining hall will be split into two sides, and only the Trelease side is serving meatless entrées. The Oglesby side will cater to non-vegetarians.

Busey-Evans is doing Dinner and a Movie on Oct. 14 at 4:30 p.m. Students will get a chance to watch “Forks over Knives” while they eat vegetarian meals featured in the movie.

All six dining units will have a Diwali-themed dinner on Oct. 23. Diwali, or Festival of Lights, is one of the biggest Hindu holidays. Meals will be primarily vegetarian, but lamb and chicken will also be served.

However, for students that don’t have access to the dining halls, The Red Herring, a popular vegetarian restaurant located in the heart of campus, offers meatless lunches every weekday. Its set menu is streamlined with salads, sandwiches and baked goods. Customers can look forward to these items every day for a quick selection, but they can also expect variety. Their weekly specials include the soup of the week, platter of the week, dessert specials and featured food from their cultural dinners.

“The whole reason why we are vegan is to remove ourselves from any sort of animal injustices that could be going on when it comes to the mass production of food and what that consumption looks like,” said Holly Monet Curia, head chef of The Red Herring and 2012 University alumna.

She also stresses that the staff at The Red Herring wants to do more than serve the community. They want to use the restaurant to educate people on healthy living, healthy eating and the issues that are going on in the world. The Red Herring offers Vegan Fusion Dinners for $8 a plate every Wednesday. Each week features a different cuisine from cultures around the world.

“It’s not meant to be weird or exotic or different,” Curia said. “It’s more meant to be a new way of looking at food. It’s still just as awesome and delicious as everything else. It makes you feel really good, and it’s just a really positive environment in there.”

For students that rely on the dining halls, even after National Vegetarian Awareness Month, all six dining halls on campus maintain a Vegan Corner year-round. It’s an assortment of cold items such as liquid amino acid, flaxseed and nutritional yeast.

“It’s used to make sure you have all of the vitamins and nutrients that you need which can be hard to do if you follow a vegetarian diet,” Anderson said.

The newly-renovated vegetarian restaurant in LAR, Field of Greens, is open for lunch Mondays through Fridays. Leafy!, also known as vegetarian night at LAR, takes place every Wednesdays from 4:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. On top of that, there will always be vegetarian options at breakfast, lunch and dinner at all dining halls, no exceptions.

Becky can be reached at [email protected].