Meatless Mondays are among the proposals the University of Chicago Animal Welfare Society (UCAWS) is pushing to increase plant-based options at dining-halls next year.
The conversations stem from ongoing conversations among UCAWS, UChicago Dining Services, Aramark, and the other members of the Coalition for Ethical and Sustainable Dining, which includes UCAWS. According to Jacob Elkin, one of UCAWS’ Events Chairs, the group has been making progress building student support for changes over the past couple of months. He says that now is the best time to do so as the announcement of the new dining contract approaches.
“We realized that this was a really crucial opportunity for change in the dining hall, as the contract decision could have a huge impact on the quantity, quality, and variety of plant-based options. All of UCAWS is committed to seeing these changes, and we have also received great support from the Coalition for Ethical and Sustainable Dining and the student body at large,” Elkin said.
UChicago Director of Public Affairs Marielle Sainvilus said that UChicago Dining was unable to comment on the process because the organization is in the midst of its Request for Proposal (RFP) process, but the dining officials are optimistic about its future with plant-based food options.
“Currently, there are both vegan and vegetarian options at the food stations daily. UChicago Dining is always looking to expand and improve the options available to students,” Sainvilus wrote in an e-mail.
UCAWS recently met with Executive Dining Director Richard Mason and Assistant Dining Executive Stacey Brown to discuss changes that they would like to see in the dining halls. Some of these changes include increasing the quantity and diversity of options at the Harvest Station and clearly labeling food items. Elkin says that UCAWS is making the most progress gathering support for Meatless Mondays.
“Meatless Mondays is a really easy way for students to start incorporating more plant-based meals into their diet and start reducing meat consumption, and we hope that this student initiative would increase demand for plant-based options in the dining halls. So far, we have 216 student pledges, and we know this will continue to increase,” he said.
Elkin believes that this change is a part of a growing trend throughout American colleges. The University of North Texas, for example, has an all plant-based dining commons. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a vegetarian restaurant in its dining halls.
“As the number of individuals eating a primarily or solely plant-based diet increases, and the number of vegans has more than doubled since 2009, universities are working to keep up with student demand…. We want to make sure that UChicago stays at the forefront of providing healthy and tasteful options to all of its students,” Elkin said.