Kat Namon ’22
I am certain that you, dear reader, are no stranger to the plethora of complaints that litter this campus regarding the dining options that we, as students and tuition payers, are presented with at this point in time. Some are completely satisfied with the options presented to them; I often find that these rare unicorns are people who have no dietary restrictions. However, I have had a very different experience and I find that my position is not so uncommon upon talking to fellow students. During the spring of my senior year of high school, I decided I wanted to try being vegan. After some trial and error, I found the diet and lifestyle suited me, and that my morals aligned with vegan values.
Freshman fall, I came to Trinity a little spoiled by the vegan options available to me at my high school, which served locally farmed and sourced produce along with hearty meals with plenty of options for all members of the community. Any student coming to college tends to have a hard time adjusting to eating away from home, being let loose to make dietary decisions by oneself often for the first time ever. Although I was comfortable making my own dietary decisions and knew how to properly feed myself so that I could function well, I remember feeling utterly optionless at the beginning of my first semester on campus in regards to vegan friendly places to eat.
I’ll start with Mather: a dining hall that offends vegans concerned with cross-contamination of ingredients. I find myself at the salad bar picking little bits of chopped-up pork out of the corn container. Personally, I can find things to eat if provided with a salad bar and enough time to pick out the meat that always ends up in the wrong container, and I actually think that the Mather options are, for the most part, satisfactory in some sense. However, I often find myself questioning whether a food item that is labelled as vegan actually is, and whether or not something that isn’t labelled at all, is vegan. For example, items like brown rice tend to be labelled as vegetarian, but not vegan. Usually, the rice does not seem to be buttered, so I find myself thoroughly confused and hesitant to take any. This problem could be solved very easily if at every meal plain, unseasoned rice or pasta were available to students, regardless of what the main meal is. This would provide students with the option to create our own hearty meals with other ingredients available to us in the dining hall.
I will give the Cave some credit for incorporating more vegan snacks and prepared meals, instead of merely tossing two cut up cucumbers with an ounce of hummus into a plastic container and calling it lunch, as they did all of last year. However, there is still only one vegan sandwich offered, and the option to create your own salad is so inconsistent that I have absolutely no idea when the hours are. If I’m in the library until late or coming out of a night class and need to grab dinner, I’d appreciate more options than a sandwich or a bag of pita chips to be at my disposal for $2,000-$3,600 dollars every year.
After a year of getting used to the options, I’ve been able to make the Bistro work for me, but I’m sure that’s not the case for other vegans on campus. I always add to my meal with food I’ve bought from off-campus grocery stores, otherwise I would not have enough food. In addition, I only purchase one meal on campus a day because I make breakfast in my room every morning. Bistro dinners consist of a salad, overpriced fruit, occasionally one of the Cedar’s products they have just recently introduced (IF they have them in stock, which they often do not), and added ingredients from my room and ever-shrinking bank account. It would be so nice to get to the Bistro to find that every night, without question, there were options at the salad bar that did not have added cheese, meat, oils, or other mysterious animal by-products, and that these things could be added if one so desired.
Every coffee shop on campus provides a non-dairy option, except the newest addition to the school, Steve’s Bagels. Sometimes I don’t have time to go to Peter B’s before class, so I stop at Steve’s to get an iced coffee. It is also one of the only things on the menu besides a plain bagel with peanut butter that I can eat. I don’t always wish to drink black coffee, but am forced to whenever I do not have time to go to Peter B’s. It’s 2020, and if gas stations offer dairy-free coffee creamers, then so can Steve’s Bagels at Trinity College. I genuinely believe the issues I have brought to light are easily solvable, and other colleges seem to provide vegan options with much more ease than Trinity does. I hope that eventually the college collectively lives up to the times.