Students give their take on vegan options at FAU’s Boca campus

PETA gave FAU a high rating for its vegan options, but some students say the menu doesn’t cut it.


Veganism is different from vegetarianism because vegans don’t eat any animal products like eggs or dairy, while vegetarians only skip meat. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Sophie Siegel and Hope Dean

FAU currently has an “A+” rating on People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) Vegan Report Card, which grades college campuses based on if vegan options are readily available.

But despite this high grade, some students would beg to differ. Options for vegan students are limited, and many are forced to pay for a meal plan they won’t use — something needs to give, they argue.

“I think that they acknowledge that vegans exist and that’s about it,” said Simone Stewart, a senior double-majoring in sociology and communication and the vice president of FAU’s Plant-Based Society, a club that promotes vegetarianism and veganism.

And Layn Alderson, marketing & guest experience director at Chartwells — the catering company that provides food for FAU’s cafeteria and some events — acknowledges that some things on campus need to change.

“Based on feedback from students, the FAU Dining Services team is currently working to augment our menu boards to better identify vegan and vegetarian options at all locations. However, guests may always ask for a manager if they have questions regarding ingredients,” Alderson said via email.  

PETA’s A+ is based on a set of characteristics that are met daily, Alderson said. To get this rating, a university must do the following in their cafeteria:

  • Offer at least one vegan entrée at every meal
  • Offer non-dairy milk
  • Label vegan entrées on menu boards
  • Offer an all-vegan station

And while these standards may be upheld, some students don’t think FAU makes the cut.

Senior English major Madison Nelski started exploring her on-campus options as she plans on transitioning from vegetarianism to veganism. The difference between the two is that neither eat meat, but veganism takes it a step further by not eating anything that includes animal products, such as dairy or eggs.

“I think one of the main issues that the cafeteria has with producing a lot of vegan food is that they are worried it would go to waste,” she said.

Stewart also thinks there aren’t enough options for vegans on campus.

She said that she had to spend extra money on vegan food on top of paying for her semesterly meal plan that costs about $1,600, which was required by the university because her former dorm rooms in Indian River Towers and Algonquin Hall don’t have access to a kitchen.

She couldn’t opt out of the meal plan because an exemption “will only be considered for those who demonstrate that a Campus Meal Plan cannot in any way satisfy their dietary needs and provide appropriate supporting documentation,” according to FAU procedures.

The exemption request sheet also has only two options to check when it comes to the reason behind the request: “medical condition” or “religious dietary observance.”

“I just had my beliefs that animals shouldn’t be eaten, which wasn’t enough for FAU,” she said. “I felt extremely uncomfortable pushing out the money into a service I don’t even use … They were requiring me to pay for pepperoni pizza and hot dogs and hamburgers. It was such a huge contrast to what I believe in.”

Cross-contamination was also a concern for Stewart, especially with the tools the dining hall and food court use to serve students. Some of these tools may be used for items that have animal products in their ingredients, which she finds “troublesome.”  

Alderson said that FAU has 14 retail options on campus that provide vegan food or drink, but Stewart said could list only a few substantial vegan options on campus.

“Technically speaking, an apple is vegan, and I can get that anywhere on campus. However, simply having apples available for students doesn’t necessarily mean that Florida Atlantic University is accommodating to vegans … There is a loophole there, but it is not enough to satiate us, to keep us full and nourished,” Stewart said.

She enjoys some of the vegan options, like the tofu at the food court’s Jow-Jing restaurant. But when she asked the eatery’s workers what was in it, as it may have non-vegan ingredients such as fish oil, they did not give clear answers, she said.

She believes FAU could improve veganism on campus by not only providing more accommodating food options, but also educating their food services staff on what veganism is, as she feels some of them don’t know.

“I think awareness is the first step in anything getting done,” Stewart said.

Chartwells doesn’t plan on adding more vegan options soon, but they do have a constantly changing selection of “Superfoods” that are almost always vegan or vegetarian, Alderson mentioned — and there will be “a whole new roster of weekly superfood vegan/vegetarian recipes” during the spring semester in 2019.

Sophie Siegel is a staff writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her at @SophSiegel.