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Vegans struggle to find dining options at Miami

Being vegan on Miami University's campus is much more difficult than one would expect. So why would someone do it?

Gretchen Matuszak, the director of Miami's Didactic Program in Dietetics, said some people adopt vegan diets for religious or ethical reasons, while others feel veganism is a healthier alternative to animal-based diets.

Veganism is a step up from vegetarianism. It's when a person abstains from eating not only meat, but also every type of food that comes from an animal, such as dairy, eggs and honey.

Aimee Liston, a first-year on campus, decided to try being vegan about one month into the semester for ethical reasons.

"[Being vegan] is another way to cut down on carbon emissions," Liston said. "I don't have a problem with eating dairy as a concept. What I do have a problem with is how animals, such as calves, are treated."

Jenna Ramsey, a junior living off campus, was vegan for her freshman and sophomore years on campus. Unlike Liston, her vegan journey was prompted more by the health benefits of veganism than by its overall environmental impact.

Senior Natalie Wink hates the food systems in America. But she didn't actually start being a vegan until she moved off campus.

The reason why?

Apparently, there were not many options on campus and thus, being vegan was nearly impossible.

Both Ramsey and Wink have found Miami's dining halls to be lacking in vegan options

Matuszak said that the dining staff tries to have at least two vegan entrees per meal, but it can be hard.

"It's definitely something we can always work on," she says.

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During her two years eating in the dining halls, Ramsey says she ate French fries. Lots of French fries.

She comments, "My biggest struggle was the lack of variety. Sophomore year, the options got more limited, and it just makes it harder to do long term."

Liston only made it only two weeks into her vegan diet before her mom voiced her concern for her daughter.

"I felt bad and shaky. I was sick of plates of French fries," Liston said. "It disappoints me because I'm a person who really wants to live out my convictions and I feel like my being vegan was something I could do for the world, but I had to stop being vegan for my health."

Another struggle of vegans on campus is the difficulty and time one has to dedicate to maintaining that lifestyle.

For instance, vegan nuggets or vegan burgers have to be specially requested at most dining halls. Ramsey says that oftentimes, she would call the dining halls beforehand so that her food would be ready when she got there.

Thankfully, Miami has a website where students can view the different food options available at the dining halls as well as the nutrition information to go along with it.

In addition, a vegan group on campus called M.U.V.E. (Miami University Vegan Eaters) meets every week and cooks new vegan recipes together.

But Ramsey and other vegans would prize a greater knowledge of veganism among Miami's dining staff above having more vegan food options.

"I would say that my biggest suggestion for improvement isn't necessarily adding more vegan options, but making staff more knowledgeable about current food and what is vegan and what's not," Ramsey said.


The Miami Student's Alyssa Melendez ate a vegan diet for several days as part of her reporting for this story.

Meal #1 (Western Dining Commons) -- Thursday lunch, 11 a.m.: My very first vegan meal consisted of a plate of quinoa covered in sauce, spaghetti squash, a few small potatoes and half of a grapefruit. At the end, the cold spaghetti squash remained.

Snack #1 (Pulley Diner) -- Thursday, 4:15 p.m.: I enjoyed a plate of fries in between lunch and dinner.

Meal #2 (Bell Tower Place) -- Thursday dinner, 6 p.m.: Dinner at Bell was a bit more difficult than the lunch at Western. Ordering vegan nuggets took a solid fifteen minutes and the salad and carrot cake to accompany it weren't all that satisfying.

Those vegan nuggets were my first time eating tofu.

Snack #2 (Miami Ice) -- Thursday, 8:30 p.m.: For an evening snack, I settled on a strawberry banana smoothie that night with a strawberry -- yogurt -- base.

Meal #3 (Physics Class) -- Friday breakfast, 8 a.m.: The next morning, I woke up hungry. With no time to stop for something, I brought a container of cashews to my 8 a.m class. That "held" me over until I finished the exam in my second class of the day at 11:39.

Meal #4 (Western Dining Commons) -- Friday lunch, 12 p.m.: For lunch, I repeated my first vegan meal from Western: quinoa in sauce, small potatoes, but substituting asparagus for squash and raspberries and blueberries for grapefruit.

Meal #5 (Pacific Rim) -- Friday dinner, 6 p.m.: Dinner at Pacific Rim offered the biggest disappointment. After waiting in line for stir-fry for over ten minutes, I was handed a plate of some vegetables, brown rice, and uncooked tofu. I labeled the tofu as a disgrace to humanity. It was a good thing I had carrot cake and cantaloupe to hold me over.

Meal #6 (Harris Dining Hall) -- Saturday breakfast, 10 a.m.: The next day was a weekend, so I actually had time to go to a dining hall for breakfast. The options were limited, however, and I ended up eating a few measly pieces of fruit and lots of potatoes.

My vegan journey ended there.