By Karen Leibowitz, VRG Intern
When choosing a university to attend, among the several factors to consider – residence life, level of class intensity, location, etc. – food is at the top of several people’s list. As a vegan, it was crucial for me to find a school where plenty of vegan options were available. Fortunately, James Madison University (JMU), located in central Virginia, is one school you can count on having vegan (and lots of vegetarian) options available.
JMU has won 3rd and 4th place in the Princeton Review for best campus food. Their East Campus Dining Hall has ranked 5th best college dining location in the country. Needless to say, the vegan food available is extremely tasty but also very healthy. The vegan options do not consist of many processed foods like mock meats and cheeses, but rather whole foods as much as possible. Stir-fry stations offer a variety of
ingredients to choose from: brown rice, onions, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, locally-made tofu. Burritos, veggie burgers, and hummus bagel sandwiches can be found almost anywhere on campus. Both buffet-style dining locations have elaborate salad bars, which include locally-grown lettuce, and a separate vegan/vegetarian station with menu items that vary everyday. Some of the vegan menu items include Moroccan vegetable stew, cauliflower curry soup, pot pie, sushi, and sloppy Joe’s. Vegan oatmeal cookies are a big hit, even among non-vegans, and one of the dining halls whips up a batch of vegan brownies every now and then. My favorite meal to order is the Falafel Fanatic salad which is a spinach and romaine salad with freshly made falafel, chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions, topped with a large dollop of red pepper hummus, with everything piled on top of a whole wheat pita.
The food staff are very accommodating to vegan diets as well. Earlier in the spring, one of the soups featured was Cuban Black Bean soup. I asked the chefs if the soup was vegan. They were very friendly and helpful in finding out who cooked it and where the recipe was archived. It turned out the recipe called for sour cream, but they offered to make a small batch without sour cream just for me!
While vegan options at JMU are not as fancy as some of the pacific Northwestern universities, for an East coast school, you will be pleasantly-surprised at the sizable amount of delicious options available. In addition to the many vegan items on campus, the city of Harrisonburg has many vegan-friendly restaurants and a very vegan-friendly food co-op in walking distance.