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Universities are changing their culinary offerings to increase the number of vegan options

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Dec27,2023

Universities are changing their culinary offerings to increase the number of ;vegan options

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Students demand more food options and universities want to reduce their carbon footprint, which which leads to an increase in the availability of vegan and vegetarian cuisine.


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Before he Before enrolling at Western University, Parum Patel's family warned him that it would be difficult to find vegetarian food on campus. But today, all he has to do is enter one of the establishment's seven cafeterias.

On the University of London campus in Ontario, vegan chicken fingers, sweet potato casserole and tofu chili are just a few of the options on the menu.

It's nice not to have to constantly resort to cold or pre-prepared meals. There are always options for hot, fresh meals, says freshman Mr. Patel.

Universities across the country are increasingly offering plant-based foods in their cafeterias to meet the constant demands of students. They want more variety as well as foods from sustainable sources.

At Western University, management set a goal of having a 40% plant-based menu in all cafeterias by the end of the year. #x27;year. She achieved the goal and even exceeded it at times. An entirely vegan cafeteria will open its doors in 2024, and the establishment's management wants to achieve the goal of 50% plant-based products in 2025.

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Colin Porter, director of reception services at the University Western, points out that when students complained about the lack of nutritious and healthy options, the school had to take responsibility and align with sustainability values.

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College campuses are increasingly offering more food options.

Gold , the trend toward offering more plant-based menus on campus is happening across the country.

At the University of British Columbia (UBC), 55% of the food served in cafeterias is plant-based, and most The Vancouver institution hopes to reach a target of 80% by 2025. The same year, Concordia University in Montreal plans to reduce its purchases of meat, dairy and eggs by 30% .

Similarly, Dalhousie University in Halifax aims to offer a menu containing at least 50% plant-based foods by 2030.

While plant-based options made up less than half of the University of Toronto's Dining Services offerings two years ago, they make up half of the offerings today. #x27;today 61%.

The vegetable aspect [of a meal] is often the accompaniment to meat […] and not the star of the show, notes David Speight, executive chef and culinary director of catering services at UBC.

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David Speight is the culinary director at UBC.

Western University head chef Kristian Crossen even says that chefs sometimes have difficulty creating vegan meals. It wasn't a subject in culinary school, he said.

UBC and Western University teamed up with vegan chefs to learn recipes, gain new skills and fill the knowledge gap about cooking without meat, dairy or fruit Then dietitians joined the effort to ensure that meals were protein-rich and nutritionally balanced.

This collaboration allowed the chefs to not only expand their repertoire and serve the community, but also to share with students the process of trial and error. We are starting to feel the influence of our student base, and we are engaged in sustainability efforts at our universities, says Crossen.

These schools also want to reduce the environmental impact of their culinary offerings.

According to a study published in the journal Nature Food, animal products represent almost half of total food-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the world. the world, approximately twice as much as plant-based products.

At UBC, a 2021 climate action plan found that food consumed on campus was the university's second largest source of GHG emissions, after commuting .

However, some experts believe that the contribution of animal agriculture to climate change is not as obvious as some reports make it out to be. suggest.

According to Tim McAllister, a researcher at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, eating more plant-based foods cannot significantly reduce the agricultural sector's contribution to climate change in Canada.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">It's quite complicated, and you have to look at the whole food system to make an assessment, he says.

Using estimates of carbon and other GHG footprints to promote plant-based agriculture can overshadow important facts, says McAllister, as does that the transformation of grasslands into agricultural land for growing plants releases a lot of carbon. Many of the fruits and vegetables found in grocery stores are also imported, which imposes transportation costs on the environment.

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Mr. McAllister says the entire food industry must be taken into account when estimating its environmental impact. (Archives)

For his part, Kirk Jackson, co-chair of the food policy committee of the Canadian Livestock Association, indicates that the majority of livestock producers in the country produce both plant-based foods and beef cattle. , and that these productions depend on each other. For example, byproducts of plant crops are used to feed livestock, he argues.

This interconnected nature of food production maximizes nutrient use and distribution, minimizes waste and results in a strong circular production system, Jackson says.

The most important thing is that people eat a balanced and varied diet, adds Mr. McAllister. This can be achieved by eating both meat and plants, as well as following a vegetarian diet; you just need to make sure you have the necessary nutrients.

Despite everything, the management of the universities surveyed still consider that increasing plant-based menus is a good measure to reduce their ecological footprint.

A spokesperson for Chartwells Canada, a major supplier of campus food products across the country, said the inclusion of more plant-based options meets the need for more plant-based options. asks students and contributes to their commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Universities that set such Sustainable Development Goals must invest in their communities.

At the University of Saskatchewan, priority is given to seasonal foods that come from local farmers, to reduce environmental impact, provide fresh ingredients and strengthen the economies of Saskatchewan and Canada, can we read in an email sent to the CBC by the establishment.

In the opinion of Mr. McAllister, the promotion of local food producers is a positive measure that helps reduce emissions linked to food transport. This contributes to regional economies and allows people to be closer to food production, something that has been lost over the years with urbanization, he says.

Almost half of the food purchased by UBC is produced in British Columbia, according to Mr. Speight. Western University also works with local suppliers, according to a spokesperson.

With information from CBC's Leïla Ahouman

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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