I went vegan during my junior year at Westerly High School. I was an athlete at the time and when my friends and coaches found out about my decision to cut animal products from my diet, I was flooded with their doubts. I repeatedly answered the questions that vegans hear in conversation everyday, pressing me to explain where I got my protein, iron and B12. I quickly had to learn to articulate my words to defend myself and my morals while being respectful of others.  I also soon learned that there are an overwhelming amount of stereotypes which surround vegans and their lifestyles.  

During my freshman year at the University of Rhode Island, I became a campus organizer for the Humane League. Soon after, I started an animal rights protection group on campus, the URI Animal Welfare Club. I put my heart into jump starting the program on campus. So many college students are vegetarian or vegan and by creating a welcoming community of like-minded students, we were able to amplify our outreach.

According to Mercy for Animals, nearly 14 percent of millennials are vegetarian or vegan, largely surpassing the 4 percent of gen Xer’s. For many people, this statistic may be surprising, but for vegetarians and vegans, there are more products on the market than there has ever been. As a vegan student on campus, there is a noticeable change being made to make plant based diets more accessible. Universities across the country, including University of Rhode Island, have begun to make changes for attendees who follow such diets.

While the dining halls may offer vegetarian or vegan options (often referred to as ‘veg’ options) at mealtimes, the variety and selection is still growing. However, at times only one or two dishes per meal in the dining halls are labeled as vegetarian or vegan. Some lunchtimes at Mainfare Dining Hall only offer one hot dish, such as baked beans or french fries as a veg dish, which is hardly a suitable meal. In fact, most of both Butterfield and Mainfare vegan selections are potato products. The salad bar should not be the only resort for veg students on campus. URI Animal Welfare Club has been working with dining services this semester, adding great new products, such as Tofutti ‘cream cheese’ to the bagel station and vegan mayo at sandwich stations. A vegan lifestyle is a very healthy choice when given a wide array of food products to choose from, which can be an issue for college students on a meal plan.

On a positive note, the Emporium offers a plethora of food choices for veg students. Peking Tokyo will happily ensure that vegetable dishes don’t contain egg or dairy upon request. International Pocket Cafe has a great selection of vegetarian wraps and dishes, which can easily be made without the cheese and dairy based dressing options. Bagelz coffee shop also offers Tofutti with their bagels and often boasts a vegan soup option for lunch. International Pocket Cafe is a delicious haven for vegans on campus, with falafel and wraps being just a few of their options.However, eating from restaurants frequently is neither economic nor a healthy option.

Combined,  a veg student at URI is a happy student! URI Animal Welfare Club is a new club on campus, as of Spring 2017. If you are a veg student and would like to see a new product or dish in the dining halls – simply connect with URI Animal Welfare Club on Facebook. We’re always trying to improve veg options on campus and make a veg lifestyle an optimal one!