The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

My Vegan Hersheypark Experience

Posted on June 23, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Shannon Borgoyn, VRG volunteer

When you’re vegan, dining out can be a challenge. There are those obvious ingredients to avoid (eggs, milk, butter, seafood, and meat), but there are sneaky foods that seem vegan but aren’t. This was the challenge when a friend and I took a day trip to Hersheypark in Pennsylvania in August 2016. When browsing through Hershey’s site, I discovered a park policy prohibiting outside foods and allowing only one sealed bottled water per person (reference FAQs/Security/What items are restricted at Hersheypark?: http://www.hersheypark.com/park-info/faqs.php). Knowing this policy, I scrutinized Hershey’s site to find food options.

Wherever I went in the park, I wanted to know at least one food place with vegan and/or vegetarian options. I found a list of Hershey’s food locations at: http://www.hersheypark.com/things-to-do/dining/locations.php. There are few dishes that are specifically labeled “vegan” or “vegetarian.” These “labels” are found in the dishes’ titles; the dishes’ ingredients can be referenced in the ingredient listings under each dish (see the above link for food locations). Don’t be fooled by titles, as seemingly vegan or vegetarian dishes might contain animal products. For example, the Garden Salad from Decades sounds like it has no eggs or dairy, but it contains cheese (Garden Salad/Decades: http://www.hersheypark.com/things-to-do/dining/details.php?id=30). The best way to find out if a dish fits your lifestyle is to reference these ingredient listings. As of June 2017, the ingredients and allergens are labeled in the dishes of most food places. Some of the listed food places (like Chick-Fil-A) require a visit to their company site to discover food options, ingredients, and other information.

A noteworthy item is fries. The regular fries sold at various food places throughout the park are fried in peanut oil, soybean oil, and/or vegetable oil (“contains one or more of the following: canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, palm oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil”). The type of oil used varies from location to location. A food place called Tower Fries serves regular fries (listed as “Fries”) fried in peanut oil. When I went to Hershey, I pointed out the place to my friend so she knew that I didn’t need special accommodations.

Vegans and vegetarians can shop at the Central PA Kosher Market (http://www.hersheypark.com/things-to-do/dining/details.php?id=41) because they also have meat-free, milk-free, egg-free, and butter-free options. There is the Vegan Delight that contains “falafel balls, quinoa tabouleh, chickpea edamame, on a bed of lettuce, purple cabbage, shredded carrots, and red onion.” They have different types of salads, fries (fried in vegetable oil), falafel (no milk or eggs), and more! When I contacted Hersheypark about vegan options, a representative suggested Overlook Food Court. She said they have “a made-to-order salad and wrap line as well as a line that serves quinoa and rice noodle bowls with tofu.” The latter two dishes she referred to are Overlook’s gluten-free quinoa bowl and gluten-free rice noodle bowl: both contain chicken but could be made without it.

Gourmet Grille has labeled four options as vegetarian (not vegan): Vegetarian Burrito, Vegetarian Nachos, Vegetarian Taco, and Vegetarian Taco Salad. The Vegetarian Burrito contains a flour tortilla with a filling of black beans (made with butter), cheese, salsa, and sour cream. The Vegetarian Nachos features nachos and cheese with black beans (made with butter). The Vegetarian Taco consists of cheese, salsa, and sour cream. Finally, the Vegetarian Taco Salad features a fried tortilla with black beans (made with butter), salsa, sour cream, guacamole, cilantro rice (made with butter), and salsa.

Besides these, Hersheypark has familiar fast food chains: Subway and Moe’s Southwest Grill. The benefit and similarity of these two are that you can create a personalized dish: get in line, choose a dish, and select toppings/fillings. Keep in mind that Subway provides its ingredients lists on Hershey’s site and Moe’s doesn’t. However, Moe’s website (https://www.moes.com/food/menu/ingredients/) can be visited and browsed through to discover ingredients. There are two Subway locations in the park: in Founder’s Way and on the Boardwalk. Moe’s Southwest Grill can only be found in Pioneer Frontier.

Need a snack? If you want fruit, Laff Track Beverage has you covered. They serve fresh fruit with “no added ingredients available”: whole oranges, whole bananas, whole apples, sliced pineapple, and sliced watermelon. These sound perfect for a hot day at Hershey! If you want a pretzel, Laff Track Beverage also sells pretzels not made with dairy or eggs (other places include Coal Cracker Pretzel and Pretzel House). Check out more of Laff Track Beverage’s options at: http://www.hersheypark.com/things-to-do/dining/details.php?id=75. Or try Nut Hut: they have trail mix (contains milk), smoked almonds (no eggs or dairy), or salted nuts (no eggs or dairy). See more of Nut Hut’s options at: http://www.hersheypark.com/things-to-do/dining/details.php?id=39.

Businesses are acknowledging vegans and vegetarians by providing more vegan- and vegetarian-friendly fare. Though some food places aren’t strictly vegan or vegetarian, there might be labeled or unlabeled vegan or vegetarian options. It’s great that Hersheypark provides ingredient lists for food dishes. With some preparation, I greatly enjoyed my Hersheypark experience!

To find out more information, visit these links:
Hersheypark’s site: http://www.hersheypark.com/
Hersheypark FAQs: http://www.hersheypark.com/park-info/faqs.php
List of dining locations: http://www.hersheypark.com/things-to-do/dining/locations.php
Allergens: http://www.hersheypark.com/things-to-do/dining/allergens.php

The contents of this posting, website, and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

For information on other restaurant chains, see: http://www.vrg.org/fastfoodinfo.php

For information on vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the US and Canada, see: http://www.vrg.org/restaurant/index.php

Enter The Vegetarian Resource Group’s 2017 Video Contest – Deadline is July 15, 2017!

Posted on June 23, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

pexels-photo-29737

The Vegetarian Resource Group is once again sponsoring a video contest. We will be awarding one $200 scholarship plus two $100 awards. The deadline for entries this year is July 15, 2017.

Create and submit a video relating what you want to tell others about veganism. Some possible topics: food, nutrition, your feelings about veganism and/or vegetarianism, water usage and veganism, veganism and animal rights, or other veggie topics which appeal to you. Humor and feelings are appreciated. All videos should be positive, not be critical of anyone, and not include any footage of animal cruelty. You may submit a video you have already made.

Aspects of judging include accuracy and judges wanting to share the video with others. Entrants give permission to The Vegetarian Resource Group to post and share the video, to link to and from the video, and share the video with the media.

To see the video contest rules, visit:
http://www.vrg.org/videoscholarship.php

Previous wining videos can be found here:
http://www.vrg.org/veg_videos.php

Colorful Paper Weights with a Veggie Theme to Use for Outreach

Posted on June 22, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

Colorful paper weight rocks

If you’ve ever staffed a veggie booth at an outdoor event, you realize that sometimes it can be windy and you definitely need paper weights to old down your handouts. VRG intern Casey Brown and former VRG intern Julia Mathews spent an evening painting rocks with fruits and veggies to use at future events where The Vegetarian Resource Group exhibits. They go the idea from VRG volunteer Whitney Blomquist. We thought some of you would want to do the same. You can always donate them to your local vegan/animal rights/environmental group in your area.

To support VRG outreach, please donate at:
http://vrg.org/donate

Join Us on the VRG Parents and Kids Facebook Group!

Posted on June 22, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

The VRG Parents and Kids Facebook Group is intended to be a group that offers support for families raising children on vegan diets and for vegan kids. We envision it as a place to get advice about a wide-variety of topics: pregnancy, birthday parties, school lunches, Halloween, non-leather apparel, cruelty-free products, summer camps, and more. Please use it to share your wisdom, seek advice, or just find a sympathetic ear. The goal is to offer support.

Consequently, any profane, defamatory, offensive, or violent language will be removed. Feel free to disagree, but do so respectfully. Hateful or discriminatory comments regarding race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or political beliefs will not be tolerated. We expect that posts should relate to vegan diets and lifestyles. The Vegetarian Resource Group reserves the right to monitor all content and ban any user who posts in violation of the above rules, any law or regulation, SPAM, or anything otherwise off topic.

Please share this information with any veggie families that you know! Thanks.

Visit The Vegetarian Resource Group Booth at Upcoming Summer 2017 Events!

Posted on June 21, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

Baltimore VegFest_ Casey Brown, Marissa Thobe, Michaela Sadlowski, and Nicole Turner

If you’re attending any of the events below, be sure to stop by The Vegetarian Resource Group’s booths at the following events and say hello:

Richmond Vegetarian Festival
Bryan Park
4308 Hermitage Rd
Richmond, VA 23227
Saturday, June 24th, 12- 6 PM
(Rain date: July 8)

Jaina Conference
New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center
97 Sunfield Avenue
Edison NJ 08837
June 30th, July 1st, and July 2nd

Waverly Farmers Market
400 E. 32nd Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
July 15th, 7 AM – 12 PM

FARM Animal Rights Conference
Hilton Mark Center
5000 Seminary Rd
Alexandria, VA 22311
August 3rd – 6th from 10:15 AM – 6:00 PM

Western New York VegFest
LaSalle Park
Buffalo, NY 14201
August 6th from 11 AM – 7 PM

Vegan SoulFest
Baltimore City Community College (BCCC)
2901 Liberty Heights Ave
Baltimore, MD 21215
August 26th from 12 PM – 7 PM

Vegan Food Items at Valley Mills H‑E‑B Plus in Texas!

Posted on June 21, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Anna Lam

The chart linked to below is a compiled list of foods labelled “vegan” at the Valley Mills location of H-E-B Plus! at 1821 South Valley Mills Dr. Waco, TX 76711-2119 on April 13th and 23rd, 2017. The Valley Mills location features a wide selection of vegan products, and the below list is of those products specifically marked as vegan, but does not preclude the variety of fresh produce and other food items that may qualify as vegan. H-E-B Plus! is not a vegan store, but indicates many certified vegan items with a green “V” next to the price. All items were also labeled “vegan” on the package. The items listed below are those that were available on the aforementioned dates, and the variety of vegan goods at the store are subject to change.

See: http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/SupermarketList_6_5.pdf

VRG EXHIBITS AT CENTRAL PA VEGFEST

Posted on June 20, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

Central PA VegFest

By Casey Brown, Intern

The Vegetarian Resource Group recently had a booth at the Central PA Vegfest in Lancaster, PA. This was the first annual Vegfest in this area, and it did not disappoint! The event included many speakers, vendors, non-profit organizations, and other activities including community yoga. It was fun for the whole family and had activities for children to get involved.

While here, the other interns and I were able to meet with and speak to numerous individuals from the area. Many people who visited our booth were new to vegetarianism/veganism or were interested in transitioning. They were excited to receive a variety of our resources so they could learn more about the lifestyle. Our Vegetarian Journals were a favorite among everyone since they include many recipes and product reviews. The “My Vegan Plate” handouts were also popular because they are a great visual tool to help plan out balanced meals. VRG’s Pennsylvania dining guides went quickly since everyone was interested in learning more about veg-friendly restaurants in the area. Multiple parents stopped by looking for more information on how to help their teenager’s transition to vegetarianism or veganism. We were able to recommend our “Vegetarianism in a Nutshell” and “Vegan Nutrition for Teenagers” brochures to provide these parents with more knowledge on these lifestyles. We also had a 12 year-old boy stop by since he had recently gone vegan. He was very interested in gathering more resources and learning more about volunteer opportunities for children his age, and he was excited to have found our group! We also spoke with a cardiologist who recommends vegan diets to the majority of his patients. He was thrilled to have found our handouts and knew they would be perfect guides to provide to his patients since he has limited time to meet with them. A dietitian also stopped by to pick up some resources she can refer her patients to. It is always exciting to meet health professionals that are educated about vegetarian/vegan diets.
Overall, we had a great time at the event and were able to connect with many individuals. We met many long-time vegans, individuals interested in transitioning, and people there in support of their vegan/vegetarian friends. We were glad we were able to provide everyone with more information and resources.

We were so grateful to be a part of Lancaster’s first annual Vegfest and we cannot wait to attend many more! The next event The Vegetarian Resource Group will be at is Richmond Vegfest in Richmond, VA on June 24, 2017. We hope to see many of you there!

To volunteer at future VRG booths, contact Brigette at vrg@vrg.org.

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group outreach, donate at www.vrg.org/donate

Or join at http://www.vrg.org/member/2013sv.php

VEGAN SEASONED RICE AT TACO BELL

Posted on June 19, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

Taco-Bell-Logo

Taco Bell wrote to The Vegetarian Resource Group:

We’re particularly excited to announce that our new certified-vegan seasoned rice will replace the existing certified-vegetarian seasoned rice in all U.S. stores starting June 15, 2017. We believe that all of our fans should have menu choices that reflect their lifestyles, without having to compromise on flavor, which is why our menu offers 37 certified vegetarian and vegan ingredients that can be customized more than 5.7 million ways.

As always, you can visit ta.co to learn more about our ingredients, read more about all of our commitments and check out our article specifically on how to eat vegan at Taco Bell.

Vegan Menu Options at Mellow Mushroom®

Posted on June 16, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

MellowMushroom

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

Annica Kreider, VP of Brand Development for Mellow Mushroom told us in 2014 that the chain was considering a few more vegetarian and vegan menu options and that they were hopeful that they would be added within a year. http://www.vrg.org/blog/2014/12/17/vegan-options-at-mellow-mushroom/

We recently checked the company website in March 2017 and viewed a “Herb Veggie Burger” featuring quinoa and kale. Roasted Potatoes also appeared on the menu. 

We noticed in May 2017 that the Herb Veggie Burger was no longer on the corporate menu. http://mellowmushroom.com/corpmenu

We wondered if it had been removed from all locations. The Vegetarian Resource Group called several Mellow Mushroom restaurants around the country to find out.
We were surprised that all six Mellows that we had contacted stated that they served the Herb Veggie Burger. What was even more surprising were the different answers we received when we asked if this menu offering was all-vegetable (i.e., vegan).

We first called three Mellow restaurants in the Maryland-Virginia-Washington, DC area. The managers at all of these locations stated that they served the Herb Veggie Burger.

The managers at the Washington, DC and Maryland stores put us on long holds and checked on its ingredients. They both stated that the Herb Veggie Burger was all-vegetable. They also stated that the bun on which it is served contained no dairy nor L-cysteine.

A Virginia Mellow manager said quite the opposite. “The Herb Veggie Burger is not vegan because it contains egg as a binder.” He voiced agreement with the others saying its bun was dairy- and L-cysteine-free. However, unlike the first two managers, he stated that the bun is automatically buttered; guests must request that butter be left off.

We next ventured West and called three more Mellow Mushroom restaurants in Utah, Arizona, and Iowa.

A Utah Mellow Mushroom employee, upon hearing our call requesting a vegan menu item, called a vegan employee to the phone. She put us on hold several times during our conversation to check and double check for us as we repeated our question in several different ways asking specifically about egg and dairy. Finally she stated that dairy, but not egg, was in the Herb Veggie Burger.

An Arizona Mellow Mushroom manager stated just the opposite: the Herb Veggie Burger contained egg but not dairy.

The Iowa manager concurred with the Virginian and Arizonan stating that egg served as a binder in the Herb Veggie Burger. He also noted the automatic bun buttering; visitors needed to request that it be left off.

The Iowa manager volunteered additional information: all of the Mellow menu is “veganizable” except for four items:
• Herb Veggie Burger (egg)
• Pesto (animal rennet)
• Holy Shiitake Pie (butter)
• Stuffed Portobello Mushroom (butter)

Five of the six Mellow Mushroom restaurants which we contacted provided the same information about the Roasted Potatoes: They are prepared in the oven away from meat items. They are roasted with fresh olive oil and no butter. However, the Virginia manager told us that the potatoes were prepared with butter.
Given the variety of responses from these six Mellow Mushroom restaurants, The VRG called them again in June 2017.

Usually the host/hostess answered the phone. He or she would put us on hold; relay our question to the kitchen and/or general manager; and get back with a response. Our goal was to find unanimous agreement among all of the restaurants since we didn’t have an answer from the corporate office. Here is what we learned the second time around:

• The Maryland Mellow Mushroom told us that egg, but not dairy, was in the Herb Veggie Burger. Butter is automatically spread on its bun unless requested otherwise. There is no butter in the Roasted Potatoes.
• A Washington, DC Mellow Mushroom announced that the Herb Veggie Burger had just been taken off of the corporate menu and they had no more left in stock. No butter was used to prepare the Roasted Potatoes.
• A Virginia location of this chain stated that Herb Veggie Burgers had just been removed from the menu. There was no butter on the Roasted Potatoes.
• This time, the host at the Utah location stated that the Herb Veggie Burger had egg in it. He added that there was no butter on the Roasted Potatoes.
• No more Herb Veggie Burgers were available at an Arizona Mellow Mushroom location. The host also said that there was no butter on the Roasted Potatoes.
• An employee at an Iowa Mellow Mushroom told us that there was no egg nor dairy in the Herb Veggie Burger. Recalling what we had been previously told by the manager at that same location last month, we asked him to check into it again. He returned from a brief hold stating that egg served as a binder in the Herb Veggie Burger.

Thinking that we had collected all of the information needed in our second round of calls, we were surprised to hear next, upon asking in Iowa about the Roasted Potatoes, that a butter spray containing “natural butter flavor” and milk was used to coat the potatoes before they were roasted.

So we went back again and called the first five Mellow Mushroom restaurants to find out if they used a butter spray. This time we asked specifically about a butter spray (not just butter).

• The Maryland Mellow Mushroom hostess told us “no.” We asked her to check with her manager. She returned stating that she had checked with both the kitchen and general managers who concurred: no butter or butter spray.
• The Washington, DC Mellow Mushroom host put us on hold then initially told us that a butter spray was used on the potatoes. When we probed further to see if dairy were also in the butter spray, he transferred us to the manager. She stated that the spray had neither butter nor dairy; it contained only soy and canola oils.
• A Virginia Mellow Mushroom hostess told us that she would check with the kitchen and returned saying that butter spray was applied to the potatoes. Then we asked if dairy were in the spray. She said that she would check again and then she put the receiver down. After being disconnected, we called back and asked to speak to the manager. The person identified herself as the manager. We asked “Is there milk in the butter spray on the potatoes?” I heard her relay my question as “Is there milk in the potatoes?” She returned by saying “There’s no milk in the potatoes.” I repeated my initial question. I heard her correctly relay the question the second time. She came back on and said that there was milk in the butter spray used on the potatoes.
• In Utah, the host put us on hold and later said that there was not any butter spray used. When we indicated that other Mellow Mushroom restaurants do use a butter spray he called a kitchen employee over to the phone. The kitchen employee reiterated that there was no butter spray used on the potatoes.
• A hostess at a Mellow Mushroom in Arizona transferred our call to another employee. When I repeated my question about butter spray I heard him ask someone else in the restaurant: “Is there butter on the potatoes?” We corrected him and again he put us on hold. He returned saying butter (not butter spray) was used on the potatoes but a guest can request that it be left off.

Given the differences between the six Mellow Mushroom locations which we contacted, The Vegetarian Resource Group recommends that before ordering, diners ask to speak to the general and/or the kitchen manager about menu items in order to determine how they are prepared at a particular location. Ask to see a list of ingredients if possible.

Note: “natural butter flavor” may or may not be derived from dairy butter. You must contact the company which manufactured the product containing it to be sure. “Artificial butter flavor” is not derived from dairy butter.

Note: The allergen page at the corporate Mellow Mushroom website indicates that the Roasted Potatoes do not contain milk. http://www.nutritionix.com/mellow-mushroom/menu/special-diets/premium?allergens=milk 

The contents of this posting, our website, and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group research, donate at www.vrg.org/donate

Or join at http://www.vrg.org/member/cabdacae.php

Information on additional restaurant chains is at http://www.vrg.org/fastfoodinfo.php

You can find vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the U.S. and Canada here.
http://www.vrg.org/restaurant/index.php

Vegetarian/Vegan Food at Baylor Dining Halls in Waco, Texas

Posted on June 15, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Anna Lam

Baylor University has been gradually improving and expanding its menu options for vegetarians. Once left having to choose between the salad bar or French fries, vegetarian students now actually have a vegetarian station at the Penland Crossroads dining hall dedicated to making exclusively vegetarian (and most of the time, vegan) food. This is a useful and timely feature of on-campus dining, since more and more college students are reporting the importance of having vegetarian menu items, according to a 2004 study by ARAMARK, the food service Baylor has partnered with for on-campus dining.

Students can find various vegetarian or vegan menu items at other stations as well. The dining hall staff display signs with the menus for each station and indicate if food items are vegetarian or vegan. Otherwise students can also visit the Baylor Dining Services website at https://baylor.campusdish.com/ to read the menus online, where items are also marked as either vegetarian, vegan, or both. Additionally, there are a few eateries on campus from which students can purchase vegan food from including Freshii, Which Wich, and Starbucks.

To be sure, there is also always a representative for vegetarian students on the Student Dining Hall Advisory Board. This ensures Baylor has an ear for feedback from vegetarian students and can respond as appropriate, as Baylor can always work towards expanding the variety offered to its vegetarian student population.

For a sample of vegan options at other colleges, see http://www.vrg.org/teen/#college

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