VCU is in the running to become the “Most Vegan-Friendly College 2010” for a contest held annually by Peta2, a youth outreach division of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The contest’s primary goal is to raise awareness about animal cruelty, the environment, and vegan lifestyles. Nominees were chosen on a multitude of qualifications, including the quantity and quality of vegan options on campus.
“We’re scanning dining hall menus, contacting schools for the latest updates, and we also solicit feedback from thousands of students all throughout the school year, including over Facebook, MySpace, email, and [college] blogs, as well as by asking students about their experiences dealing with dining services on campus,” said Ryan Huling, the Assistant Manager of College Campaigns for Peta2. “Through all of this, we are able to able to monitor how affective schools are when students approach them about providing more vegan choices, and as a result, VCU was one of the schools chosen for this year’s contest.”
The Shafer Dining Hall provides vegan food options including vegan sloppy joes, vegan chicken nuggets and veggie stuffed peppers. Beyond university dining services are local restaurants that cater to vegan and vegetarian cuisine, like Harrison Street Café, Ipanema, Cous Cous and Elephant Tai.
“I think what makes Richmond unique in its vegan-friendly atmosphere is that we’re a small southern town that would otherwise not have so many great restaurants if it weren’t for the University,” said Krista Veneziano, a senior psychology and women’s studies double major. “I’ve lived in bigger towns that didn’t have nearly the great places we do. We’re very spoiled here.”
Gehrard Stiene, a senior double major in art history and cinema, said while he thinks VCU deserves to be a candidate in the contest, it’s not because of Shafer. “Cafeteria food is cafeteria food, even if it is cruelty free. As far as I know, there is not a large school-sponsored community of vegans or vegetarians. VCU does, however, host a large community of vegan and vegetarian students, and the community that surrounds the campus is incredible,” said Stiene. “I’m actually having a hard time thinking of a restaurant near campus that doesn’t have at least a few decent vegetarian options.”
Some believe the title would encourage more students to think about their current diet, and even consider switching to a vegan or vegetarian palate.
“If VCU won the title of most vegan friendly university, more students would be curious about vegan food,” said Claudia Orellana, a senior mass communications student. “The buzz would definitely make people wonder what [veganism] is and why some people don’t eat meat. I think the title would make the University want to improve their vegan menu to keep the title.”
Others, like Sarah Lincoln, a junior and international studies major, said even if VCU were to win the title, it probably wouldn’t affect students’ eating habits. “I think students would continue to eat their current diet, but the award could still be at the back of their mind, and make student think more about [the food they eat],” said Lincoln.
The winner of the contest will receive plaques to display in dining halls on campus. Winners will be announced on Nov. 19. For more information on veganism, animal cruelty, and environmental issues, visit peta2.com.