People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently placed Yale fourth among the nation’s most vegetarian-friendly colleges, though some vegetarian students at Yale said the vegetarian options in dining halls are very limited. “What can we say?” a student-oriented PETA Web site reads. “Smart people eat healthy food.”
PETA2, a division of PETA, ranked the top 10 American and top 10 Canadian colleges with vegetarian-friendly menus in their dining halls. Yale — which was commended for its vegan barbecued ribs, pizza and enchiladas — came in behind Indiana University, Humboldt State University and the Univesity of Puget Sound to claim the No. 4 spot. While students said they appreciate the dining halls’ vegetarian offerings, many said the dishes lack variety.
Karen Dougherty, the director of communications for Yale University Dining Services, said Yale has been offering vegetarian options since the 1970s and vegan options since the 1980s to cater to increasingly diverse eating habits on campus. She said the options for vegetarians and vegans have increased in recent years both at Yale and across the country.
“There are numerous cookbooks, magazines and well-known chefs doing creative things with vegetarian dishes,” Dougherty said.
Berkeley dining hall manager Tom Helland said he thinks the committee that decides the dining hall menus takes vegetarian needs very seriously.
“It is a big part of culture,” Helland said. “Higher education means individuals have higher awareness and considerations of everyone’s eating habits need to be made.”
Despite PETA’s praise, however, some students said Dining Services does not provide a wide enough array of vegetarian choices. Tofu and starch tends to dominate the non-meat menu, they said.
“I am sometimes surprised by the huge tofu choices we have,” Natalie Holmes ’10 said. “However, as a vegetarian, I wouldn’t count tofu as the be all and end all of veggie culinary choices.”
Some students said they wish the dining halls would feature more vegan options.
Neal Parikh ’08, who recently helped start the Vegan Group at Yale, said while there are usually enough vegetarian options, they often contain dairy products. He said he often has to stick to salad or spend money on food from outside establishments.
But Justin Wright ’10 said he believes Yale menus are usually vegetarian-friendly and that non-vegetarians can enjoy them.
Dougherty said she thinks vegetarians’ complaints are sometimes based on their personal tastes rather than a lack of options.
Dining services representatives said they try their best provide meal choices in proportion to the percentage of students who are meat-eaters, vegetarians or vegans.