Virginia Tech never misses an opportunity to boast its ranking as number one among colleges for food on campus, but sometimes chicken parmesan doesn’t do the trick for everyone. As veganism becomes more popular due to environmental awareness, protest of animal cruelty and more, it is important for our university and its community to become more sensitive to different dietary restrictions, both functionally and socially.
Ryan Singman is a sophomore majoring in computer engineering. After doing a test run for two months in the fall of last year, Singman has been vegan since August now. Like many other students with a stricter diet, Singman must be mindful of what he can eat and get through the obstacles that come with eating on campus.
“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of vegan options on campus. I typically get the same thing to eat every day, just from Qdoba,” Singman said. “It seems like there’s a lot of vegetarian options but not a whole lot of thought going into vegan stuff. Almost everything in Grab-n-Go has some sort of milk product in it at Turner. It seems like that’s the case for a lot of stuff. Stuff that could be vegan isn’t and a lot of times that stuff is hidden on there. A lot of stuff is not clearly labelled. It makes it more difficult. It doesn’t seem like the university is particularly proactive in aiding people that are wanting to do this.”
However, fair accommodation for vegans is attainable, as exemplified by the town of Blacksburg itself, though there's always room for improvement.
“For vegan stuff, you either have to go to an Indian or a Thai restaurant,” Singman said. “Otherwise, there’s not really going to be anything. I mean, sometimes Chinese stuff too. There’s a decent amount of those kind of things around Blacksburg and in the area. It’s probably not a world center for vegans or anything, but it’s doable.”
Yet, not every restaurant accommodates a vegan diet, leaving patrons like Singman scanning the menu for even a side salad that they could eat or giving up all together.
“Sometimes I don’t end up going out to eat with my friends because they’re going to a place that doesn’t offer anything that I can eat other than a garden salad. So, I do miss out on some opportunities like that, but it’s never purposeful exclusion,” Singman said. “They want to go to a place, and I don’t because of the choice I made.”
Though these challenges are some that must be faced daily for those who decide to go vegan, it isn’t impossible.
“It’s not really that different. When I do tell people that I am, it’s always like, ‘That’s so crazy! How could you do that?’ Which it’s not, really. It seems like people are putting it on a pedestal of being too difficult to do when really it’s not that much different than a normal diet,” Singman said.
It becomes especially easy to live a vegan lifestyle when you keep your motivating factors in mind.
“The biggest reasons for me switching were the morality and environmental aspects of it. Before I switched, I never really thought about it or I wouldn’t say I didn’t care. I just never really considered it. To go from not considering it to considering it, but rectifying it is not really a difference,” Singman said.
While veganism may seem daunting, maintaining a diet without meat and animal products is achievable, though it is time for dining establishments to be aware of what they can do to help, As dietary trends change, people need more options and accessibility of foods they can eat as they take on a busy day of learning, teaching or researching. The same goes for leisure, as people should still be able to spend a night out without having to worry about what they will be able to eat.
Choosing a lifestyle without meat or animal-based products doesn’t have to be stigmatized as impossible. As long as people and dining establishments make efforts to account for individuals’ different dietary needs, one’s personal choice to become vegan can be normalized and eased.