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Vegetarian Journal Sept/Oct 1999

Note from the Coordinators

Americans Buying More Meatless Meals

Debra Wasserman
Charles Stahler
To gauge the demand for meatless meals in restaurants, The Vegetarian Resource Group conducted a poll (see page 11) to find out how often customers were ordering vegetarian meals when dining out. Though our previous polls indicate about one percent of the United States is vegetarian (no meat, fish, or fowl), about five times as many people say that when eating out, they always order a dish without meat, fish, or fowl (5.5%). And over half of the population (57%), sometimes, often, or always order a vegetarian entree!

There are many preferences to which foodservice staff must cater. But if a vegetarian item tastes good, about half the population will eat it. Food companies and restaurants just need encouragement and help in order to offer more meatless items.

The demand is there, and The Vegetarian Resource Group is assisting restaurants, colleges, and other institutions to serve more vegetarian options. Chef Nancy Berkoff, EdD, RD, our foodservice advisor, was invited to give a session on soy foods at the annual meeting of the Dietary Managers Association. Their members supervise food preparation in hospitals. This summer, Nancy also gave a session on vegetarianism at the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) conference. In addition, VRG had a booth at NACUFS, where we gave out recipes and other resources.

Each week food companies call VRG. For example, one business which sells products to hospitals and universities up and down the East Coast wanted to produce more vegetarian items. Our staff, volunteers, and summer interns spent numerous hours with them helping the company to understand vegetarian needs, as well as sharing marketing ideas and suggestions for new products. We look forward to seeing some of their foods in your local colleges or hospitals in a year or two.

Other outreach by Nancy included: 1) consultation with the Art Institute of Los Angeles (part of a 25-culinary school national chain) on incorporating vegetarian instruction in nutrition, regional cuisine, and ethnic cuisine classes; 2) presentation to Los Angeles sales representatives on answering their customers

 (commercial and noncommercial food services) questions on incorporation of vegetarian ingredients into their menus; 3) presentation at the International Association of Culinary Professionals about making vegetarian meals in a glass or cup (soups, smoothies, shakes, etc.); 4) coordination of a vegetarian menu for an animal-rights adopt a pet day at the Los Angeles County Museum, attended by over 500 people (and 85 animals were adopted!); and 5) presentation to the writers and guests of the staff of Food and Wine magazine on vegan wines and food pairings.

If you would like to assist us in our foodservice campaign, please give a Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update subscription (quarterly newsletter written by Chef Nancy Berkoff) to institutions in your area. For VRG members, cost is only $10 per subscription. Send the fee along with the names and addresses of your local colleges, restaurants, hospitals, business cafeterias, etc., to VRG Foodservice Update, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203. Thank you for your support!

Debra Wasserman & Charles Stahler

Coordinators of The Vegetarian Resource Group 


Excerpts from the Sept/Oct Issue