The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Dining Hall Diversity: Being Vegan at College

Posted on March 29, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

Dining Hall Diversity: Being Vegan at College (Specifically Goucher College in Towson, MD)
By Madeline St. John

As a vegan, eating out–or simply eating food that you haven’t prepared yourself–is something of a challenge. Eating on a college meal plan can also sometimes be challenging. Fortunately, as vegans and vegetarians increase in number, especially among young people, dining halls are improving their vegan and vegetarian options.

Bon Appétit, the company that provides the food for Goucher College (which I attend) certainly makes an effort to provide for vegetarians and vegans. Goucher currently has two dining halls (though this is soon to change)—Stimson and Huebeck. Stimson boasts an extensive salad bar that typically includes tofu or garbanzo beans. However, while Stimson’s salad bar is more impressive, Huebeck definitely has more hot plate vegan options. For the most part, Huebeck’s staff seems to experiment with Italian, Indian, and Chinese cuisine. Sometimes the options may be disappointing or a little too experimental, but as far as I have seen there is always at least one vegan option. During lunch hours, Huebeck currently serves stir-fry, which is a favorite among Goucher students. Stir-fry is also now being offered in Stimson at dinnertime.

Along with the two dining halls, Goucher also has a couple of cafés—the Pearlstone Passport Café and Alice’s Restaurant. Pearlstone serves packaged vegan Indian food that you can microwave in your dorm. However, I almost never buy these because they cost the same as a meal swipe and are much less food. Pearlstone also serves Mexican food (it is somewhat similar to Chipotle) and has a sandwich bar. You can order a vegan burrito, vegan tacos, or just a plate or bowl with rice, beans, and whatever toppings you want. It is also all very customizable. Pearlstone has a breaded tofu option that I greatly enjoy in my tacos. They serve French fries so you can get some French fries in your burrito, if that’s your style. Another bonus: the charge for vegan tacos is less than for meat tacos (as it should be!). Pearlstone also sells fruit cups, bags of carrots, veggie chips, Naked juice, and delicious (if expensive) vegan cookies. While eating at Pearlstone is less economical than eating at a dining hall (a meal swipe, which gets you all-you-can-eat at a dining hall only gives you $7 at the cafés on campus), it is a great option if you’re craving some Mexican food, if you’re eating at an odd hour, or if you need to get somewhere.

Pearlstone is open until 9 pm, but Alice’s is Goucher’s true late-night option. It stays open until midnight. Alice’s is a bit like a Starbucks. They serve lots of fancy drinks, such as Italian sodas and coffees. There are vegan milk substitutes (soy, almond, coconut) for the drinks. Actually, all of the dining halls offer soymilk, and Pearlstone has a soymilk option for putting in coffee. Alice’s Restaurant also sells snack foods (that include some vegan chip and cookie options), fruit, and sandwiches. Sometimes there is a vegan sandwich option. There will also sometimes be a vegan soup option. Paired with a bagel, vegan soup makes for a pretty solid meal. Bagels are ubiquitous on campus, available in a variety of types at almost all the eateries. I have been told by all my friends from New York and New Jersey that they can’t stand the bagels; that they just can’t compare with bagels from back home. (Personally, however, I eat a lot of bagels.)

The Van, located in Van Meter, one of Goucher’s academic buildings, is a grab-and-go stop. They have bagels. They also serve orange juice, Naked juice, and little containers of hummus and pretzels. This is the place to go if you need to grab food between classes.

While it may not always seem like vegan options on campus are the most bountiful, they are still increasing. For example, Goucher recently started selling amazing vegan caramel popcorn and vegan cookies from Divvies. The great thing about these products, while they are more expensive than some of the other options, is that they provide great ways of proving to your friends that vegan desserts and junk food do exist. And they can be just as, or even more delicious, than non-vegan options!

While the dining halls offer enough options that you can avoid getting sick of them (by varying where you eat, what you eat, and trying new things), Goucher also has nice facilities for preparing your own food. Every dorm has a common room with a kitchen, which are usually equipped with an oven, stove, microwave, sink, full-size refrigerator, and cabinets. You can store your things in the cabinets and refrigerators—just label them, keep them clean, and keep them out of others’ way. In order to cook vegan food, you will have to bring or buy your own cooking equipment (or team up with people and purchase shared equipment) but once you have the supplies, it is easy enough to find an open kitchen. Also, as an upperclassman it is possible to apply for an apartment, in which case you would have a kitchen in your dorm in which you could prepare vegan food.

Goucher is located near an enormous mall, a Trader Joe’s, and a Fresh Market. Trader Joe’s is a great place to get fairly affordable vegan fare, with Fresh Market being a slightly classier, much more expensive option. These stores are about a 15-minute walk from campus (ask around about shortcuts; there are a few). A 15-minute walk in the other direction will take you to an enormous shopping center (Towson Place), with a Shoppers, Target, Walmart, and more. With so many stores so close by, there are a lot of options for buying vegan groceries.

Goucher also has a cooking club (started last year by a couple of my friends, actually), which sometimes cooks vegan options (mostly because of my influence). Because Goucher is such a small school, with a large fund from the student activity fee, it is quite easy to start up your own club. Clubs can apply for funding to host activities and organize events. Cooking club typically prepares a meal or dessert once a week. If you were to start up a vegan cooking club, you would simply have to have some documentation of support and need (like eight or ten student signatures) and get an advisor (a member of faculty or staff who is willing to sign your paperwork). After that, it is easy enough to apply for the money to purchase materials and food!

One of the great things about being vegan at Goucher is the supportiveness of the campus. Most people have an idea of what a vegan is, and if they don’t, they will typically be curious and willing to listen to your explanation. For the most part, people will be considerate of your choices and support your dietary needs as much as they can. For example, I recently went to a training for which they bought us all free pizza. When I told the organizers I was vegan, they were very apologetic and said they would order a vegan pizza next time. They were apologizing for not providing me with free food! While vegans are still in the minority, I know more vegans now than I ever have, and there are certainly a great deal of vegetarians on campus. The college environment, at least at Goucher, is an environment in which vegans are a supported and respected population.


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