The University of Oregon sells a total of six pre-packaged salads in the markets around campus. Only two of them are vegetarian. None of them are vegan. The two vegetarian options, the garden and the caesar salad, are served in smaller portions than their meat-based counterparts; they are meant to be a side rather than a meal.
The sandwiches are even worse. Every one of the pre-packaged sandwiches sold on campus contains meat. As much as I would like a sub, I’m not comfortable peeling a cold cut off of bread and calling it vegetarian. A cold sub is impossible to enjoy for plant-based students.
The problem arose for me just the other day: 10 minutes before my class ended, I ordered a salad from Watershed on GrubHub, hoping it would be ready by the time I made the trek to Unthank. Instead, I sat at a table for 35 minutes as I waited for my food to be made. By the time my vegetarian meal was ready, I had moments before my shift started, and I still needed to return to my dorm, change and clock in.
I didn’t eat lunch until I took my break two hours later.
The lack of plant-based grab-and-go options offered on campus prevents some students from eating a quick, healthy meal between classes, forcing them to settle for small portion sizes or processed goods — or worse, nothing at all.
I reached out to UO Dining about the dearth of options for plant-based students. It responded that “dining staff works to ensure enough options are available to serve all students’ personal food preferences and dietary restrictions.”
However, despite making such an assertion, it continues to add unnecessary meat into grab-and-go products. For instance, the loaded potato salad looks like a fun option to get away from the droll of mixed greens, but it contains a sprinkling of bacon that prevents certain students from eating it.
Alicia Santiago, a first-year student, has been vegan for two years and often eats gluten-free, as well. The islands of pre-packaged foods at Agate Street Market and Fresh! don’t provide anything she can consume.
“There is for sure an advantage for people without those restrictions here which makes eating a semi-stressful experience,” Santiago said. “I know how to manage it, but for a lot of my friends it makes them not want to even eat.”
The advantage that Santiago speaks of? Anyone can eat a vegetarian salad, but those with plant-based diets can’t eat the meat-covered greens UO insists upon serving. The unlucky individuals who are halted by this restriction often find themselves without anything to eat.
Jacqueline Cleugh, a fourth-year student, has been a vegetarian for six years. She struggled to find abundant vegetarian options for her to speedily eat during her first year, damaging her health.
“I mostly had to go get food to be made, and if I didn’t have time, I didn’t eat,” Cleugh said. “I ended up losing 15 pounds my freshman year because I had so few options, and I really relied on eating off campus.”
The lack of vegetarian grab-and-go options on campus forced Cleugh to spend unnecessary money rather than utilizing her meal plan which inverted her “Freshman 15” for the worse. Some other students who struggled to find the balance between limited options and time were forced to give up their plant-based lifestyle altogether.
Elise Haverland was a vegetarian for over a year before she gave it up this term because she couldn’t find any protein-full grab-and-go meals that didn’t contain meat.
“It sucks to have to go back to eating meat,” Haverland said. “I physically feel better when I eat a vegetarian diet, so to not have those options was an unfortunate blow for me.”
The fact that the limitations on plant-based dining at UO forces some to abandon their diets and morals is incredibly upsetting. Our “green” school should offer more greens to its students rather than pushing individuals off-campus or away from their diet choices. UO Dining wouldn’t even need to remove meat from the salads they already have; just make one with tofu and one without protein so everyone can be happy.
The statement from UO Dining offered one potential opportunity to make a change in the grab-and-go meals: “Students can submit one of the comment cards provided by the dining halls or email: firstname.lastname@example.org to provide feedback.” Small wooden chests have been placed on counters around the dining halls for anonymous student feedback.
I plan to leave a comment or two regarding the lack of vegetarian options, and if you’re as frustrated as I am, you should, too.