​U.Va. Dining working to incorporate more meatless options

Students react to Aramark's sustainability practices


U.Va. Dining already offers special vegetarian options, including Meatless Mondays and all-vegetarian theme meals, as well as events on World Water Day, Earth Week and World Vegetarian Day.

Chelsea Bengson | Cavalier Daily

The University's dining services program plans to offer more vegetarian and vegan options in response to student demand for increased variety and healthier food. This is also part of an ongoing effort to incorporate more sustainable practices into the dining halls.

According to U.Va. Dining Sustainability Coordinator Samantha Jameson, there are currently a variety of practices in place in the dining halls that promote sustainability and create a more inclusive experience for students. This includes Meatless Mondays and all-vegetarian theme meals, as well as events on World Water Day, Earth Week and World Vegetarian Day.

“[The Observatory Hill Dining Hall] participates in a variation of Meatless Monday that provides an additional meat-free option at each station; if a cheeseburger is on the menu, there will also be a black bean or Garden burger to choose instead,” Jameson said. “Our nutritionist works directly with managers and students to incorporate vegan and vegetarian options.”

Jameson also said their goal of providing more meatless options would not reduce the availability of meat for students who want it.

“While we do not want to remove items, we do want to make sure we offer a range of options that will satisfy student wants and needs in all aspects of dining,” Jameson said.

However, these initiatives have been met with skepticism from some students. Second-year College student Grayham Lohrey said he did not think an emphasis on more meatless options in the dining halls would actually be healthier.

“When they’ve done the vegetarian nights, I don’t think it’s gone well, because it hasn't been healthy food. It’s just pasta and cheese. There are not a lot of other protein options,” Lohrey said. “If they try to implement it the way they’ve been doing it now, it’s not going to be healthy. The current system is not the way they should do it.”

Second-year Engineering student Sydney Applegate, who also works in the University’s Office of Sustainability, said she thinks that U.Va. Dining should focus on switching from a buffet style in the dining halls to a single-meal serving style as a way to implement more sustainable practices.

“The most important thing that the dining halls can do to be more sustainable and reduce waste is switching from a buffet style to single meal. This is more important than eliminating meat,” Applegate said. “Aramark also needs to offer green and sustainable meals as the default, not the exception.”

Third-year Architecture student Courtney Sigloh is a Sustainability Dining Educator for Green Dining — a student group that works with U.Va. Dining to plan and promote sustainable food initiatives. Sigloh said she was optimistic that offering more meatless options in the dining halls would be beneficial to students and sustainability, as meat production results in a large carbon footprint.

“Meat on the side is our new movement, where we look at meat as more of a condiment. So if we think about a baked potato bar, having bacon sprinkles,” Sigloh said. “We are not asking people to go vegetarian. Rather, we are asking them to be more mindful about how much meat they consume.”

She encouraged students to take advantage of what dining services have to offer.

“This year we started a lot of new initiatives, and they were successful,” Sigloh said. “We are going to be moving forward, and you can expect to see twice as many sustainable events happening through dining next year.”

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