Veganism on backburner, NMU dining lacks options


BURNING NIGHT OIL—Evening students drift through the 24-hour study lounge in the lower level of the LRC, taking care of their studies before the morning comes again.

Calista Rockwell

NMU’s Northern Lights Dining (NLD) isn’t exactly mom’s cooking, but it isn’t hard to tell that the dining services team at least somewhat cares about our digestive tracts. Between The Grate, Global, Parsnip, The Cutting Board, and 46 North, most students with a meal plan are bound to find something that satisfies. Yet it seems like a very important demographic is being forgotten on campus when it comes to what our dining hall offers: the vegan community. 

Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in one’s diet. This philosophy rejects the commodity status of animals, not only because of the inhumane practices within the mass meat industry, but also for the environmental impact excessive meat consumption has on our carbon footprint.

With a mindful population at NMU, it’s no surprise that a growing number of students have adopted veganism into part of their everyday lifestyle. Though it does come as a surprise, however, just how challenging it is to find vegan friendly options at our dining hall. 

I believe that every student at our school should be provided with the resources to practice the diet they choose and with the current state of our dining hall on campus, and an exponentially growing vegan population, change needs to happen. 

My first experience with the vegan station at NLD started when I decided to become a vegetarian last year. With nearly all the daily entrees centering around some type of meat, I relied heavily on the vegan station, otherwise known as Parsnip, to provide almost all of my meals. That was where I was first exposed to the daily struggle vegans and vegetarians alike endure in our dining hall to find proper nutrition while still sticking to their dietary restrictions. 

Though I only experimented with vegetarianism for a few months, my close friend has been practicing veganism for three years. Through her, I have learned just how limited the options are at NLD for those refraining from animal products. Parsnip does not even offer breakfast like all the other stations do.

Lunch, oftentimes consists of a less-than-appealing vegetable and noodle concoction, or white rice and vegetable stir fry frequently. The average vegan does, though, have the ability to gain access to the “vegan fridge,” located directly next to Parsnip, upon request. But options are still minimal, including vegan mayonnaise, vegan cheese and a few types of vegan meat substitute to create a sandwich for desperate times.  

Don’t get me wrong, the dining hall has made some headway for the vegan community, and attempts for inclusion are evident; however, the luxury of options during meal time doesn’t exist for many of these students, creating heavy anxiety about whether or not they will be able to find something that respects their restrictions and actually tastes edible. 

It is obvious that this group is being misrepresented. I believe our campus should be a place where everyone feels included, especially when it comes to where and what we eat. NMU needs to implement a more vegetarian/vegan friendly menu to our NLD, not only to create a more sustainable campus and promote a more mindful student body, but also to be inclusive to a large demographic of students that are often forgotten. 

Calista Rockwell is a sophomore, environmental studies & sustainability major.