Voting vegan

Queen’s wins second place for healthy vegan options in nationwide contest

Sous chef Nigel Hughes prepares vegan food at Leonard Cafeteria, which features a vegan station for students.
Sous chef Nigel Hughes prepares vegan food at Leonard Cafeteria, which features a vegan station for students.

Queen’s has been named the second most vegan-conscious campus in Canada by Youth Chapter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). First place went to McMaster University for the second year in a row.

Alison Beach, Queen’s Hospitality Services manager, said the award shows that vegan meal options are a priority in Queen’s cafeterias.

“There are over one hundred recipes that our chefs are able to draw from. Providing students with a variety of dishes is extremely important to us,” she said. “We don’t want vegan students feeling as if their only option is a pasta dish.”

PETA’s award criteria included evaluating the quality and variety of vegan meals, as well as the school’s ability to provide healthy and balanced vegan meals. Some popular menu items include black bean and vegan cheese quesadillas and vegan sloppy joes.

“Last year we had ranked third amongst our peers, so moving to second place, in my opinion, means that we are continuing to move in the right direction,” Beach said.

Students from all across Canada were asked to participate in the PETA challenge. Last semester the animal rights group encouraged students to cast online votes, send emails and write blog posts, all to determine which school was most dedicated to providing equal meal opportunities for vegan students.

Beach said McMaster’s win is partly due to their new exclusively vegetarian cafeteria.

“It’s great they are able to provide their student body with such a cafeteria. Clearly there is high demand for such facilities over at McMaster,” she said. When asked if Queen’s has any plans to follow in McMaster’s footsteps, Beach said it would be difficult to designate such an area on campus.

“The demand comes from the students,” she said. “Quite frankly, based on the responses we get from various surveys conducted throughout the year, there aren’t enough students who are vegan to have an independent cafeteria created.”

Relying on the input of cafeteria patrons, Beach said Hospitality Services has done its best to adhere to the needs of students, pointing out that every campus cafeteria offers vegetarian and/or vegan choices.

In the last five years alone, the vegan program has steadily expanded, allowing Queen’s to seek more creative options from suppliers, Beach said.

“Food is such an important part of the university experience. We don’t want students to feel like they’re being shafted with lesser options.”

Breach acknowledged that it can be costly to source fresh vegetables and provide a variety of interesting foods to appeal to vegan students and said that sustainability is also a concern.

“More and more students are beginning to choose vegan options for ethical reasons and so the onus is on us to provide quality service.

“It seems like every year there are more complaints from students, ... in fact, we encourage students to be very vocal about their meal options.”

Beach said ways students can be heard is by attending Student Affairs focus groups, which are run throughout the year or by speaking with cafeteria managers.

“We make for certain that our cafeteria managers are one hundred percent accessible during meal hours. We want students to feel comfortable and respected.”

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