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Student reviews mixed on how vegetarian and vegan dishes stack up

The concepts of vegetarianism and even veganism are well known at Mills. Each day our dining halls give students the option of a vegetarian and/or vegan ent‚e for lunch and dinner, and the Tea Shop and Caf‚ Suzie’s each have many veggie-friendly choices for the campus community.

National statistics show that Mills students are not alone in their veggie inclinations. All over the Untied State people are making the switch to vegetarian or vegan lifestyles in increasing numbers.

So, what’s the motivation to go veggie? At Mills, students say they are turning to vegetarianism or veganism in an effort to maintain healthy bodies and humane morals, but an assessment of these current accommodations for vegetarians and vegans at Mills comes with some mixed reviews.

Jennifer Liu, a freshwoman, came to Mills in Fall 2006 and decided to try veganism shortly thereafter.

“I had thought about going vegan for a while, and I knew it was something I’d like to try because I wanted to reduce the amount of processed food I ate,” said Liu.

Liu said that health was her main reason for trying a vegan lifestyle. Liu emphasized that being vegan forces her to watch what she eats, and therefore to make good decisions about the things she puts into her body.

During her time as a vegan, Liu said she was pleased with the food selection at Mills.

“I found the food to be great,” she said. “I knew Mills would have vegan and vegetarian options. It is actually easier to be vegan here than at home . People complain that there isn’t much variety [for vegetarians and vegans] at Mills, but I think they don’t give the dining services enough credit. They do listen to us.”

Liu said that once she talked to an employee at Founders Commons about being vegan and quickly after, she noticed more vegan food available at dinnertime.

“It may be a coincidence, but there’s no point complaining if you don’t tell [the workers at Founders] about it.”

Liu said she was very pleased with her overall experience of having been vegan at Mills.

Like Liu, many Americans are following the trend of switching to vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. A recent study conducted by the highly recognized organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals concludes that there are more than 12 million vegetarians (vegans included) in the U.S. That’s roughly 4 percent of the population – an increase of 1.5 percent from the year 2000. PETA also claims that some 19,000 Americans are switching to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle each week.

These statistics also include an increasing number of young people, women in particular, in the USA. A survey by the National Food Standards Agency of the United States found that 10 percent of women between 15 and 20 claimed to be vegetarian or vegan.

It seems that the dining services at Mills have been paying attention to the increase in the vegetarian population. There are no statistics on the number of vegetarians and vegans at Mills; Steven Deresh, the dining services manager at Caf‚ Suzie’s and the Tea Shop, said he recognizes a large vegetarian population on campus.

“I’d like to know how many vegetarians go here so I can prepare proportionately,” Deresh said. “Vegetarian food is an important part of our agenda; we try to make accurate accommodations.”

Deresh emphasized that there is a full salad bar at the Tea Shop and that it is meant to be a main accommodation for vegan and vegetarian students.

“Most of the prepared salads we serve are also vegetarian,” said Deresh.

Founders Commons also accommodates vegan and vegetarian students at Mills. It has dedicated one half of each meal’s buffet to vegetarian food and made sure there is a vegan entr‚e every night, even if it is a sometimes-repetitive pasta dish.

Despite these accommodations, some vegans and vegetarians think they could be doing more to please students. Macy Messineo, a vegetarian of two years who lives on campus at Mills and relies mostly on Founders Commons for her meals, said she is not satisfied with the selection.

“There are options, but the options could taste better,” Messineo said.

Messineo said that the vegetarian food at Mills does not compare to the food she gets when she goes out to eat at restaurants. Messineo understands that “you can’t expect the same quality at a college” that one finds elsewhere, but still does not feel that Mills is up-to-par for vegetarians.

Messineo said she would probably be satisfied with the food at Mills if she weren’t a vegetarian. “There are many more options for non-vegetarians at Mills,” she said. “But I’m not going to start eating meat just because of that.”