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The Carletonian

Vegans crave more from Bon Appétit

<ir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-c131eac6-63d3-cfad-afd0-0dec85f948ab">Carleton and Bon Appétit both pride themselves on being environmentally friendly and sustainable. One of the most environmentally friendly diets is veganism. Living Green Magazine estimates that each person who switches to a vegan diet saves 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. Despite Bon Appétit’s commitment to sustainability, however, veganism is not always easy in Carleton’s dining halls.

Many vegans and vegetarians say that Bon Appétit does not always provide varied vegan options. Jackie Culotta ’19 has been vegan for a year, and vegetarian for the year prior. Coming to Carleton, they said, “I was pretty excited and enthusiastic, because there were actually [vegan] options. But then I slowly realized that it was pretty much the same exact thing every week, and they didn’t really change it up, and sometimes they just didn’t have vegan entrées.”

Bon Appétit disagrees. “Bon Appetit tries to provide a vegan or vegetarian options at every meal in both dining halls,” said Jenny Pope, Board Manager of Bon Appétit at Carleton. “At Breakfast, the Wild Thymes station in LDC serves a vegan or vegetarian option daily. In Burton for Breakfast, the chef has a vegan breakfast entrée 3 times per week. For Lunch and Dinner the dining halls serve a vegan or vegetarian soup daily and have a vegan burger option available at the Grill. In LDC at Wild Thymes, there is always a vegan or vegetarian meal served. As much as possible, the chefs in each dining hall try to have a meat and vegan/vegetarian choice available for the students.”

Culotta has submitted comments to Bon Appétit requesting a greater frequency and variety of vegan food, but has not been satisfied with their responses. “They have a veggie burger every day… and they also said that they have a salad bar, but a salad bar is not an entrée option. And they also have pasta, but sometimes they even put meat in the pasta sauce.”

Erik Sorensen ’17, a pescatarian and former vegan, has had similar experiences. “I submitted a complaint about it, and the response was not great… It was completely unheard,” he said. Bon Appétit, on the other hand, says it takes student concerns and comments into consideration. “Students vote with their forks and if they are eating more of a particular item, we try to serve it more often,” said Pope. “Bon Appetit responds to all comment cards submitted to the comment card board or the online form. Dining Board meets Thursday during common time (12pm-1pm) on even weeks in Sevy Tea Room. This meeting is open to all Carleton students who would like to discuss the dining program at Carleton. In this meeting we discuss all comment cards along with any other questions or concerns students have.”

Abhimanyu Lele ’16, a vegetarian, has had a better experience with Bon Appétit. “Some meals are hard, especially breakfast and brunch. I think it’s boring more than anything else; I mostly get enough food, it’s that the vegetarian stuff is the same day after day,” he said. “It’s definitely better than what I expected, because when I came to Carleton, I was kind of expecting to have to eat meat to get enough protein. But it was not that bad.”

The dining halls’ efforts at providing varied options can be seen in the labels they use to mark vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free dishes. Despite this, many students find it too difficult to be vegan at Carleton. “I’ve thought about going vegan, and I’ve pretty much cut eggs out of my diet, but cutting dairy out is really difficult,” Lele said.

Sorensen did not stop being a vegan because of the dining hall, but said that it is a contributing factor for many other former vegans. “A lot of my friends were vegans my freshman year, and almost none of them are now,” he said. “I don’t think Carleton is entirely to blame, but it is certainly not easy.”

Some students are frustrated by the associated price tag as well. The twenty- and fifteen-meal plans both cost $2,040 per term, and the restrictive nature of the meal plans makes it difficult for vegans to find other options, especially when Sayles contains even fewer vegan options than the dining halls do. Additionally, freshmen like Culotta do not have the option of going on the five-meal plan or going off board. “I intended to get off board as soon as I possibly could because I definitely don’t want to pay as much as I’m paying and not receive actual food I can eat,” they said.

Sorensen agreed. “The fact that I am precluded from eating any sort of meal besides a panini that I can make myself every day is ridiculous, because I can make paninis on my own time, and I can do it for much cheaper than what I’m paying Bon Appétit to do it,” he said. Sorensen added that vegan and vegetarian options, especially in Burton, have decreased in recent years. “Particularly when I was a freshman, I remember it being a lot better than it is now,” he said. “It seems like it would be impossible to be a vegan and eat in Burton now and have a substantive meal.”

Bon Appétit says that this difference in availability is due to the different layout of the two dining halls. “Because LDC has an entire station that is dedicated to vegan/vegetarian cuisine, LDC tends to have more vegan options readily available,” said Pope. “The chef at Burton will put vegan/vegetarian options on the menu as much as possible while balancing the meat options.”

“It’s more convenient for me to go to Burton all the time,” Sorensen said. “If I want to have a quality, nutritious meal, I should be able to get that in my dining hall.”

How could the dining halls improve? “If I could ask Bon App for one thing, it’d just be one hot vegan entrée at each dining hall, every meal,” Culotta said. “Because a vegan is going to show up at the dining hall every time. There should be something.”

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