The aromas of freshly baked lasagna and garlic bread permeate the Grewcock Student Union as Hillsdale College students line up outside Bon Appétit dining hall for dinner. Marinara concoctions, side salads, and Sizzle’s burgers are marched out to the tables where they rest between laughing students, and are devoured bit by bit. For some students, however, the menu looks a little different.
The stereotype much of the time is that vegetarians and vegans eat only salads, but freshman Jonathan Bauman, an ethical vegetarian, hasn’t eaten a salad in at least two weeks.
“I mean, it’s super normal,” Bauman said, “It’s really easy to not eat the meat here, and the fact that most the people here eat meat are, in my experience, the people who complain about the food, or are complaining about the meat.”
Mitchell Jesse is a freshman who switched to vegetarianism at the beginning of the 2018 spring semester, and he also does not eat salad exclusively.
“One can’t live off of salad and cheese pizza for every meal,” he said.
Jessica Frenkel, a junior/sophomore transfer, is a vegan on one of Bon Appétit’s meal plans who also strives for a varied diet.
“For me, personally, I rely on a lot of the whole grains that they provide,” Frenkel said. “I feel like most of the time, I can find some kind of whole grain or potatoes that they’re serving with whatever meat entrée.”
There was one point, however, upon which all three agreed.
“The thing that I’ve struggled most with,” Frenkel said, “is finding some clean plant-based protein that isn’t loaded up with oils and extra stuff.”
Bauman said that he would have preferred to go vegan, but he ran into a similar situation.
“I tried going vegan here for about a month,” said Bauman, “and I had to buy my own nuts, and even after buying my own protein sources, I wasn’t feeling full enough just from that.”
Jesse has also had to make some changes.
“It’s easy if you don’t mind eating some of the less healthy options serves at Sizzle,” he said, “but trying to maintain a healthy vegetarian diet is very difficult at times. I have had to change my diet to allow eggs so that I can get enough protein.”
He adds that being vegetarian was his own choice and that he “didn’t expect it to be easy.”
There were many positive points for the dining hall as well, despite adjusting for their lifestyles. For Bauman, having certain healthy options readily available encouraged him to include them more.
“I haven’t had salads lately,” Bauman said, “but I definitely eat more greens just because it’s on tap…the great thing about the greens here too is that they’re fresh and local.”
Frenkel thought that her overall experience with the dining hall as a vegan has been helpful and smooth. When she transferred, she says that she reached out to Bon Appetit about her diet.
“They were super accommodating and just very kind and helpful in really listening to what I was looking for,” she said. “That was the best part about it.”
Bon Appétit’s marketing manager, William Persson, says that the company tries to be very attentive to students’ dietary needs, and he encourages students to bring their concerns to light.
“As a company,” Persson said, “we love receiving feedback about our menu items to see what people want more of. We like knowing when people have dietary concerns because it allows us to cater to them specifically, and we do stand for and support having plant alternatives.”
Persson added that it can be challenging adding more meatless options because Bon Appétit also has to consider the demand for a particular item.
“It really is a matter of what our consumers want,” he said. “It’s all about, I think, encouraging people to actually try those alternatives. It’s about trying to come up with menu items that we think they’ll like, even though they don’t have meat in them.”
The dining hall meal plan might seem difficult to abide by when living out a certain lifestyle, but it seems that students have found their own ways to live their meatless lives to the fullest.
“You definitely have to be a little bit strategic just because it’s obviously not the norm,” Frenkel said, “especially on a campus like Hillsdale…But at the same time, there are always options.”