By Denise Dick
Chantell Vera isn’t a vegan or a vegetarian, but she’s trying to eat more healthful food so she steers toward the Green Cuisine station in Youngstown State University’s Christman Dining Commons four to five times per week.
This semester, the dining hall began offering vegan and vegetarian options for lunch and dinner. Though vegetarians don’t eat meat or fish, vegans also exclude eggs, dairy and sometimes honey.
“I’m looking to eat healthier and to eat better food,” said Vera, a freshman from the city who is studying theater.
On a day this week, she tried a chickpea and couscous burger with red peppers, peas and potato and leek soup.
The dining commons began offering the vegan and vegetarian station this semester and Edward Krol, executive chef, says it’s been a hit.
“We’re just always trying to grow our program and expand it with fresh local foods,” Krol said.
Particular favorites are the noodle bar where students, faculty, staff and the public can pick a sauce to pour over their noodles, and the soup bar that allows them to use the broths and vegetables available to make their own soup.
“About five years ago you could count the number of vegans and vegetarians on one hand,” said Tom Totterdale, general manager of Christman.
Now more and more people are seeking nonmeat options, he said.
“I don’t know if they’re vegetarians or they’re just trying to eat healthier food,” Totterdale said.
“The popularity is growing,” he said. “It’s a small but dedicated crowd on campus. Every year we see that number growing.”
The dining areas always offered meatless options, but vegans and vegetarians told personnel they preferred a dedicated spot where the meatless selections are prepared and served away from meat.
The other campus eateries also offer meatless options, the executive chef said. Nutrition information including fat and calorie content is posted in the dining halls and on the dining website or may be accessed via smartphone using a QR code.
Vera said the new options allow her to try food she’s never had before.
“It’s all been delicious,” she said.
She even tried tofu, with some reservations.
“I was afraid to try tofu because I heard it was really terrible and disgusting, but I tried it, and it was really delicious,” Vera said.
Mary Noble, a systems analyst who works in Meshel Hall, isn’t a vegetarian either, but she’s enjoying the varied menu options.
Earlier this week, she tried a chickpea patty with couscous to go along with a salad from the salad bar.
“Last week, they had these grilled vegetables that were delicious,” she said, adding that she appreciates a healthy alternative for lunch.
Tony Kos, an assistant professor of management in the Williamson College of Business Administration, tried a bowl of potato leek soup.
“I’m just trying different things,” he said.