Avid Advance readers may already know that the Dining Hall is not vegan friendly, but for new readers or anyone interested in this issue I have some colorful updates. AVI has implemented Wufoo forms for any issues or concerns students may have. Initially many students with dietary restrictions were thrilled to have a designated outlet for complaints and comments. Within a few days or a week Beth Gotter, AVI director, responds with an apology or explanation. But many of those students who have filled out response forms feel the underlining issues are not being addressed.
Unfortunately almost every time I enter the Dining Hall I stumble across food that is improperly labeled. If mislabeled food is pointed out to the staff they are usually apologetic and make some attempt to fix the label. On more than one occasion a staff member asked me what a vegan was and student Dining Hall committee ask me for lists of nonvegan foods for AVI to reference. I did some research and sent them a list that weekend. The very next day I asked if noodles, which were labeled vegan, were really vegan. The staff member asked what vegans can’t eat. It turned out the noodles contained egg. A very big NO for vegans.
Often there is no prepared food that is vegan so a few Sundays ago I went to the salad bar. Through no fault of the staff, cheese had been spilled over many of the vegetables so only the broccoli was free of dairy contamination. After a few bites I discovered some sort of insect’s egg sac or larva. I took my plate back to the kitchen and showed the chef. He apologized and said that was normal for this time of year. For an hour after, I sat in the Dining Hall drinking coffee and the broccoli remained out without any attempt to rewash it. When I described the event in a Wufoo form I received a response that said the broccoli was immediately removed.
This Friday, November 2nd, I was informed no food would be labeled vegan to avoid mislabeling. So instead of accidently being sickened, vegans will just not be fed. The salad bar is only thing they can utilize and even then much of what is put out is not labeled or vegan. This same Friday, bacon bits were put out and spilled over several vegetables. If it were up to me, I would not eat in the Dining Hall at all, but the meal plan is charged to my account whether I can eat the food or not.
On average I spend five hours a week questioning the food, filling out forms, talking to staff and meeting with student senate or other groups to discuss this issue. Academics and/or athletics are the priorities of most students on campus; things that take time away from studying and practicing are at best an inconvenience. On any given day we, as students, have multiple jobs to perform. AVI has one job: provide adequate nutrition for those on the meal plan. If the inability of AVI’s management to do their job impacts your ability to do YOUR jobs it might be time to take action. Demand that the Dining Hall follow the procedures they have already promised. If we do not hold them accountable, no one will. When I asked one of the managers when they planned to sort these issues out he responded, “Beth [the AVI director] has a lot on her plate.” Well, that makes one of us.