Diversifying the food counter

Andy's Advice Corner

By on February 25, 2015
Opinion Headline

The American dinner table: it has long been a symbol of togetherness, relaxation after the day’s work and a respite from the outer world. As conversation swirls around the table, the familiar clank of silverware colliding with ceramic rings out—it is the interaction between individual and the standard American diet: meat, vegetable and starch.

But that was the past. Today, an increasing amount of Americans have chosen—for a variety of understandable and praiseworthy reasons—to omit meat from their diets; the historic “meat and potatoes” meal has transformed into something more environmentally friendly. Americans still consume meat and potatoes—some just ask to hold the meat.

In a Vegetarian Times Study, approximately 7.3 million Americans identify as being vegetarian. Of this 7.3 million, 1 million identify as vegan. Additionally, the study notes nearly 23 million Americans follow a vegetarian-inclined diet.

The studies findings—which suggest approximately 3.2 percent of the U.S. population lives vegetarian lifestyles and approximately 10 percent lives vegetarian-inclined lifestyles—appear to be a more conservative estimate of vegetarianism in America.

A 2012 Gallup Poll found approximately 5 percent of Americans self-identified as being vegetarians.

In theory, if Quinnipiac University accurately represented a microcosm of American society, one could expect (for our purposes we will say the school has 6,300 total undergraduate students) 315 Quinnipiac students to identify as vegetarian. Going a step further, one could also claim that approximately 630 students eat a vegetarian-inclined diet.

But what’s my point? Let me explain:

As an individual who eats a diet containing mostly animal products, eating in the Quinnipiac cafeteria is relatively effortless; my diet offers me access to all meals, snacks and beverages sold. Essentially, my diet allows me to have choice: my eating preferences go unpunished and, instead, are rewarded.

For the vegetarian and vegetarian-inclined, eating in the Quinnipiac cafeteria results in increased mental anguish rather than relief to individual physiological need. The vegetarian-minded must choose from a relatively miniscule amount of options and then decide which meal to consume out of the inherently limited offerings. Rather than being rewarded—or at least properly acknowledged—for their dietary choices, these students receive the proverbial bad end of the dietary stick; the majority of students get to choose their meals—vegetarians must accept theirs.

I understand increased dining options will add additional costs to Chartwells in both labor and food, I acknowledge that vegetarians make up a minority of the Quinnipiac population, and I admit there is a presence of some vegetarian meals, but more can and should be done; a university’s dining facilities should plan to properly feed the diverse palate and unique dietary needs of a university population.

If the university can offer students a burger bar and a Boar’s Head Deli, it could, and should, offer students a third option—an option directed toward those who have made the personal decision to live a vegetarian lifestyle.

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