Value vegetarian minority

It’s time for NIU dining halls to recognize not all students are carnivorous.

In the Sept. 23 issue of the Northern Star, Jill Kohn, a nutrition and dietetic graduate assistant at the test kitchen, revealed that while vegetarian options are available at NIU dining halls, they are not the focus of the menu. Of course they aren’t; most students aren’t vegan or vegetarian. The key word in that last sentence being “most.”

A national poll, from Harris in 2003, concurred about 2.5 to 2.8 percent of Americans never eat meat, fish or poultry. The number is 6 percent if those who eat fish or poultry are included.

A small minority to be sure, but nonetheless important; especially considering NIU meal plans range from $55 to $100 per week.

Even if a conservative 2 percent of the 6,000 who regularly eat at the dining halls are vegetarian or vegan that means 120 NIU students who collectively could pay up to $1,200 per week to eat at the dining halls are simply ignored. In reality, the numbers are probably higher as the Harris poll indicated 5 percent of those 18 to 24 surveyed never eat meat.

What about the salads and Boca Burgers and soy milk?

What about them? No one can get their nutritional requirements from a salad bar. Soy milk? How can milk come from a plant? Boca Burgers are a good alternative, but who can stand to eat the same thing every day? This is not to mention paying $1,200 per week for Boca Burgers every day is a bit pricey.

The NIU Housing and Dining Web site listed seven entrées that qualify as vegan or vegetarian, but also mentions that if a “main entrée” is not available, students can concoct an entrée from the regularly available salad bar, hummus, tofu, soy milk and Boca Burgers. NIU Dining needs to offer a vegan entrée every day; even in the military, one can get a vegetarian Meal Ready to Eat and there is surprising variety in those MREs.

We aren’t asking NIU to stock the mother load of vegan dishes, just to consider that the foods most people enjoy are not edible by all.

Besides, if these vegan entrées are as readily available as the site implied, then why did freshman psychology major Kelly O’Shea complain in the Sept. 23 Star article, “Even when it’s labeled vegetarian, it’s still sketchy; I asked [a dining hall attendant] what the vegetarian options were once and she told me ‘turkey links.’”

Turkey links?

The employee O’Shea talked to either had no knowledge of the vegan dishes NIU Dining promotes or no knowledge of veganism or vegetarianism. While it’s true some vegetarians eat fish or poultry, the respondents to the Harris poll do not. Let’s not forget the 120 NIU students who would not eat any meat or animal product, such as gelatin or honey.

Those people should not have to “put together” a meal from a hodgepodge of salad bar items on a campus that promotes and celebrates diversity. NIU Dining should take action to offer vegetarian and vegan options more often.

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