Vegetarian focus group holds first meeting of semester

Audrey Browning

A lack of vegetarian and vegan menu items on campus brought roughly 30 students to the first monthly Vegetarian Focus Group meeting of the semester Wednesday. 

The Division of Housing and Food Service hosted the focus group meeting to collect data from students. Rene Rodriguez, Director of Food Service, said these meetings are always about educating ­­— be it about University issues, health tips or for students themselves to educate the division’s staff. 

Rodriguez said UT was rated in the top 20 vegetarian schools for the past three years, but it was not even close this year, which concerned staff.

“We’re pretty sad about not making it this time,” Rodriguez said. 

Lindsay Wilson, UT’s registered dietitian for the DHFS, led the meeting and was enthused about having a larger number of attendees than past years. 

“A few years ago, we were lucky if anyone showed up to these,” Wilson said. 

They are working on getting more students involved with the group and campus food service as a whole, so they can better serve student needs.

The meeting began with an introduction by Wilson and a food sample by the Kinsolving Dining Hall, including a vegan dish called “veggie mushi” that debuted at the hall this year. After a smoothie demonstration, the floor opened to student attendees for comments and suggestions to go straight to the DHFS staff.

Philosophy senior Jacek Prus said the University of North Texas now offers a fully vegan dining hall, and asked why the UT campus doesn’t offer a similar facility.

“If you’re [vegan and] eating fully on UT campus, you won’t be healthy,” Prus said. “The so-called options are obscure and not something I’d want to eat.”

Prus said he doesn’t understand why such a progressive university doesn’t cater to the more progressive students. 

Other students said they share Prus’ frustration and also voiced their concerns directly to the staff during the meeting.

Robert Mayberry, the executive campus chef at UT, said making the campus vegan-friendly is becoming a greater issue.

“We’re at a point where we will see more vegans and vegetarians,” Mayberry said. “Not just for health or morals, but for money reasons.”

DFHS is currently hoping to visit UNT’s campus soon to look further into their vegan dining hall. Rodriguez said there are calls for a new housing facility, which gives a greater probability of a new dining hall to offer these suggestions, but that he is unsure of the chances of those changes taking place.

“Animal agriculture is the number one killer of American sustainability,” Prus said. “If ‘what starts here changes the world,’ then we need to start here and change things.”