Cooked vegetables and veggie burgers are no longer the only options for vegetarian students like Cortez Watkins due to the vegetarian population on Dillard University’s campus and campuses across the country. Sodexho campus services, the catering company for Dillard and Tulane University, have taken several steps to provide students with alternative eating styles with well-rounded options for meals that do not always involve veggie burgers.
Watkins, a junior physics major from Memphis, Tenn., decided about four months ago that he would adopt a pescatarian diet, a vegetarian diet that incorporates fish, as a conscious decision and believes that Sodexho is succeeding in their attempts to serve people like him.
Watkins is not alone in his decision.
In a study conducted by the National Diet & Nutrition Survey in 2001 that surveyed 2,251 adults from age 19 to 64, five percent claimed to be vegetarian or vegan.
Of the five percent, 51 percent chose to become vegetarian or vegan for moral or ethical reasons, while 29 percent became vegetarians or vegan due to health reasons.
To be purely vegetarian means to avoid eating all meats, including fish. There are other types of vegetarians, but those who do not eat dairy products, eggs, and honey their diet is vegan.
As with any diet, vegetarians face challenges of ensuring fully balanced meals.
Gloria Maisano, a registered dietician who has her own private practice in the New Orleans area, says that making sure they have enough protein is a major concern for vegetarians, but there are solutions.
"Today, they have so many protein sources. You can do complimentary proteins where you eat beans and rice or peanut butter and bread," Maisano said.
The vegetarian society agrees that a balanced diet is possible. Their website says, "Many people worry that when they stop eating meat and fish, they might be in danger of some nutritional deficiency. This is not the case as all the nutrients you need can easily be obtained from a vegetarian diet."
Maisano believes that some vegetarians are healthier than the general public. "If you compare them to the general population who eats hamburgers and pizza," Maisano said, "I would say they are healthier."
On the collegiate level, school dining services are being forced to have better rounded meals that incorporate dishes for all types of eaters.
Michael Colvin, general manager of Dillard University’s Sodexho campus services says several steps have been taken to ensure that all eating habits are being represented. The dining hall’s exhibition cooking focuses on different meals that do not require meat and other foods through out the dining hall are beginning to be created without meat. The turkey dinner given to students on Thanksgiving was accompanied by a vegan gravy and dressing.
Colvin says that soymilk will soon be added to the campusÃ dining hall as well as other whole foods. Colvin says the dining hallÃs chefs will attend trainings programs where they will learn vegan foods and a new chef who specializes in the preparation of vegan foods was recently added to the staff in the dining hall.
Colvin encourages all students to offer their feedback on how the services are performing and providing for the students.
Provisions for vegetarians at Tulane University slightly differ from those at Dillard. A labeling system for Tulane students indicates with a label which foods vegetarian and vegan safe. Students know when they see the "V" listed on the menu beside a dish that all of the ingredients are natural without meat.
A variety of foods low in fat, sodium, and other hazardous materials are provided for those students who have health risks or alternative eating habits as well.
Vegetarian Tulane students have Taco Bell, Noodles, etc., each dining area, and other Cafe’s and grills as eating options.
The University of New Orleans has similar foods. At UNO, students have Taco Bell, Grille Works, dining hall options, as well as a Flambeau Room, a grill that offers steamed vegetables, homemade soups, and desserts for vegetarians to eat.
Students choosing to be vegetarians have the support of many organizations and many celebrities. PETA organized votes for what is called the Ã¬WorldÃs Sexiest VegetariansÃ® competition. For 2004, Andre 3000 of Outkast and actress Alicia Silverstone received the title. Past recipients include Spiderman star Tobey Maguire and singer Shania Twain.
In the celebrity world, African American vegetarians are well represented with Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, rappers Q-Tip and Murphy Lee, actors Omar Epps, Orlando Jones, and Mos Def, actress Angela Bassett, and singers Prince, India Arie, and Erykah Badu.