The Collegian
Sunday, July 12, 2020

Vegan students face challenges with dining services

<p>Members of Spiders CARE,&nbsp;a new organization on campus that advocates for animal rights, pose outside of the library to spread awareness about plant-based diets. Photo courtesy of Diana Nguyen.&nbsp;</p>

Members of Spiders CARE, a new organization on campus that advocates for animal rights, pose outside of the library to spread awareness about plant-based diets. Photo courtesy of Diana Nguyen. 

For many vegan students, the process of working with Dining Services to bring more vegan food options to campus has been a difficult one.

Diana Nguyen, WC '19, the president of Spiders CARE, a new organization on campus that advocates for animal rights, began petitioning the Heilman Dining Center last semester to create a menu that would be more inclusive for vegan students. 

She said the dining hall had been resistant in implementing some of her requests, and that she had been told that it would be hard to bring more vegan foods to campus because these foods were too difficult to mass produce.

“I think they’re saying this because they haven’t tried,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen became a vegan after arriving to the University of Richmond last year. She said that it is often difficult for her to create meals with the options that are available in the dining hall. 

Raelyn Williams, WC '19, said that she had also tried to go vegan during her time as a student here at Richmond, but was unable to because she felt as if she could never get full from eating the vegan options that were available to her.

“It seems like [the dining hall] treats certain eating preferences as just an afterthought,” Williams said.

Nguyen has been working with other members of Spiders CARE this semester to create an official proposal detailing the dining changes that the organization would like to see. Last semester, the organization was able to get 90 students to send text messages to the dining hall during a Spiders CARE tabling event, asking for more vegan options. Nguyen said that the dining hall did not respond to her after this happened and instead contacted another member of her organization.

“D-hall seemed kind of offended,” she said.

Karen Hensley, the university dietician, said that cost and packaging might be two other factors that make it difficult for Dining Services to add more vegan foods to the dining hall menu. 

However, members of the Dining Services staff are still well aware of vegan students' concerns. 

"We have recently formed a committee to talk about ways in which we could better accommodate vegan students," Hensley said. 

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She also said that the dining hall already offers several services to accommodate vegan diets, such as vegan proteins at every made-to-order station, vegan pans in which to prepare the proteins and one vegan entree every day at lunch and dinner. The dining hall also uses dietary symbols to indicate which foods are vegan.

Nguyen said that she has seen a few changes made by dining services since her organization began making demands, such as the dining hall preparing some of the vegan dessert recipes that she submitted. 

Gabriela Telepman, WC '19, a member of Spiders CARE, said that the organization had partnered with other activist groups on campus such as the Green Coalition, a group of campus organizations that are concerned with environmental sustainability.

“We just want this campus to be as inclusive as possible,” Telepman said.

Contact news writer Bri Park at

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