Elon University Response to Vegetarians and Vegans on Campus
Updated: Jul 31, 2019
With vegetarian and veganism on the rise in the U.S., students question if Elon’s campus fosters those restricted diets.
According to The Vegetarian Resource Group, the estimated amount of vegans and vegetarians is over eight million individuals, with half of that number identifying as vegan. Although there is a small representation of vegetarian and vegans in the ages of 18-22, Elon’s nutritionist Amanda Cerra said the campus offers loads of options for those eating with restrictions but recommends each student make wise decisions before taking out food groups.
“Do I recommend it for everyone?”, questioned Cerra. “Not necessarily.”
She explained that being vegetarian today is much easier than it was in the past, but it’s still very restrictive. She explained that her advice has always been “eat less meat and eat more plant-based foods” whether that means becoming vegetarian or not.
She is unsure of the amount of non-meat eating students there are, but since she has been here (2.5 years) there has been such an increase, there is now vegan stations at some of the dining halls.
Junior Hanna Harper has been a vegan since the beginning of her time at Elon and she loves the options and variety Elon offers.
"I had no trouble living off a meal plan as a vegan," said Harper. "I still use dining hall swipes every now in then just to get some of Elon's vegan options."
Harper said she decided to commit to a vegan diet for three main reasons: environmental implications, personal health and animal ethics. For others, the decision to exclude meat and animal products from a diet comes about for many different reasons. The Vegetarian Resource Group" provides insight into what some of these reasons may be.
Junior Jess Pusch would agree that her diet change came about due some of the reasons listed above, but also due to her own personal morals. For her, the decision was less of a diet and more of a lifestyle.
"I want to be a conscience consumer," said Pusch, "For me, that means being mindful of others, the planet and the cruelty that can go into meat consumption along with my own personal health."
Her hope: have people become more connected to their energy sources.
"Americans have become oblivious to the decisions they are making about food," she said. "Being vegetarian does help weight loss, but being conscious consumers should be the driving force in changing your diet."
It has been almost two years since she made the shift in lifestyle and for her, sticking to a vegetarian diet with a meal plan was an easy transition but it did have its challenges, especially finding healthy options. She explained that a lot of what Elon offered was vegan, but also deep fried and covered in oil.
Pusch said she has seen the changes Elon has made in their dining plan over her three years, but she still thinks there is a way to go. She said students should be supported in their efforts to be more mindful and aware of the impact of their food choices have both to their bodies and the environment.
Cerra agrees that a vegetarian or vegan should be better supported at Elon due to the health benefits and environmental implications of a meatless diet.
Cerra said the Elon Dining staff is working to accommodate all the dietary restrictions for students and said there are plenty of tips and tricks for students to get the most out of their meal plan when trying to stick to a vegan/vegetarian diet.
Her first tip: utilize the online menus that have vegan and vegetarian filters.
Tips for breakfast: Cerra recommends utilizing the plant-based milk (both soy and almond) and the vegan cereal and oatmeal options. There is also vegan bread, nuts/seeds and fruit and peanut butter. She said all of the omelets are made with a canola and olive oil base so you can ask for a serving of sautéed vegetables to put on top of the other hot vegan options.
Tips for lunch and dinner: There is always freshly made hummus and guacamole, which Cerra said is great when paired with whole-grain bread and plenty of plant-based proteins on the deli and salad bar. Falafel balls are served daily along with lots of vegan desserts offered in Greenworld dining. In Lakeside dining, there is a salad bar dedicated to serving vegan entrees for both lunch and dinner.
Tips for late night snacks: You can ask for a vegan entree such as vegan pizza or nuggets upon request.
Sophmore Lauren Mihalek said she found eating vegan at Elon to be too challenging.
"Getting adequate protein and having enough energy for the day was really difficult, and I ended up giving it up after a couple months," said Mihalek. "I think the dining services are getting better at accommodating special diets, but they have a ways to go."