WKU works to address vegan options on campus

Jessica Voorhees

With restaurants like Steak ’n Shake and Grille Works on WKU’s campus, it can be hard to find vegan alternatives.

Louisville junior Megan Laffoon has been a vegetarian for eight years. She said she struggles with finding substantial meatless options within the meal plan.

“Most of the dining places offer vegetarian options, but it’s things like grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly, which are not really good options,” Laffoon said.

She said it is hard to find options on campus that provide the necessary protein for a meatless diet within the meal plan. 

“If you’re a vegan, there really is no place to eat on campus unless you want to spend a lot more money than what the meal plan offers,” she said.

A vegan is someone who does not consume any animal products, such as meat and dairy food nor do they use any products derived from animals.

Fresh Food Company began “Meatless Mondays at Mongolian Grill” this month, which will provide vegetarian options to students. This will last until the end of October.

Brandi Breden, Aramark dietician, implemented “Meatless Mondays” as a way to add more healthy alternatives to the meal plan. 

She is currently creating a list of meals for students with special diets, such as vegetarians and vegans, which will come out within the month.

“There are actually a lot of options for vegans,” Breden said.

Students can find vegan food at several dining locations on campus, such as Subway, Burrito Bowl, JuiceBlendz and Fresh Food Company.

In addition to providing vegan options, Breden said the cooking oil used on campus is vegan and meat and vegetarian dishes are cooked separately at all dining locations on campus.

Fresh Food Company provides a vegan and vegetarian station that serves rice and beans every day. Last year, it also served grilled tofu at the station.

Verdrana Forsythe, manager at Fresh Food Company, said she eliminated the tofu option this year because she is trying to provide more vegetarian options at the other stations within Fresh Food. The salad bar now serves raw tofu. 

Aramark eliminated other vegan-friendly options in the past few years as well, such as Greens to Go, which provided customizable salads to students.

Gary Meszaros, assistant vice president for Auxiliary Services, said the restaurant was not getting business despite the push from students for healthier options. 

“I think students sometimes say they want these healthy options and then just go eat the other things,” Meszaros said. “Just go look at the Steak ’n Shake line or the Chick-fil-A line. Those are still the most popular places on campus.”

Meszaros said more vegan options would be provided if they were better received.

“Our goal in food is to provide what students want, so if there’s enough of them wanting that then we’ll keep adding more and more options,” he said. 

Breden plans to create a group for vegan students to share their thoughts about dining on campus and offer ideas for more vegan options. 

Steve Hoyng, Aramark district manager, said vegan options are difficult to find while using meal plans.

“You have to hunt for it,” Hoyng said. 

Breden encourages students to ask an employee to check the food labels.

“My advice if you’re ever questioning anything is always ask the manager to look at the box or packaging that the food comes in,” Breden said.

Breden works with students who have special dietary needs and helps them find the options on campus that suit their diet.

“Any time I have a student that’s a vegetarian or vegan or has a food allergy, I really encourage them to introduce themselves to the chefs, and if they’re a little nervous about that we can do it together,” Breden said.

Charles Hampton, who works as a daytime chef at Fresh Food Company, said he is willing to accommodate students with special diets.

“Don’t be afraid to ask the chefs,” Hampton said. “We’ll take care of you.”