The cafeteria dilemma

Trying to eat for a specific dietary requirement at the SUB sometimes is difficult. Even if you just want to eat a little bit healthier, finding the food you want and need can be an issue.

Eating in Henry’s Dining Hall, more commonly known as the SUB, is not a terrible thing in itself. The staff members are always friendly and welcoming; the options are always varied; and the salad bar is plentiful.

And while we vegetarians love the vegan sloppy joes and falafel the SUB has offered, we don’t feel that the options are always so exciting — or visible.

The seniors of The Beacon Editorial Board remember a time where there was a designated section, every day, with vegetarian options and tofu galore.

Now, if you want the vegetarian option you have to ask for it. Located next to the sandwich section, the sign indicates that a vegetarian meal should be served in this section. However, there’s normally only a meat option visible here instead.

The vegetarian and vegan options are served near the wall behind this station, but the lack of wonderful, ready-to-eat meat-free options on plates leave some people assuming the only completely meat-free options available are the pizza, pasta and salad bar.

Even upon discovery that there is in fact a vegetarian section, the offerings aren’t always that varied, with bean burgers being offered two days in a row last week.

While asking for a meal is not necessarily an issue considering people who have gluten intolerances are required to do this, sometimes you can’t help but feel like a burden when someone has to leave their station to go make you a vegetarian meal, sometimes leaving another station empty. Bean burgers can take up to 10 minutes to prepare – this is a long time to wait for such a simple meal.

But shouldn’t the vegetarian option be in one of the main serving stations? Vegetarianism isn’t a niche dietary requirement anymore. Nor are you required to be a vegetarian to eat a meat-free meal.

According to One Green Planet, 30 percent of Americans are vegetarian, with 6 percent claiming they are vegan. While the Wilkes population might not represent these statistics, it shouldn’t mean that meat-free options are pushed to the back and hidden. If vegetarian meals were part of the main serving area, it’s likely that meat eaters would choose it too — and that might be in their best interest.

The Physicians Committee writes how leaving out meat has many benefits. According to studies done in England and Germany, vegetarian diets reduce the risk of cancer by 40 percent. Less meat also reduces the risk of heart disease and lowers blood pressure.

The environment also benefits from less meat consumption. TIME wrote that livestock contributes to 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. A vegetarian diet could cut this down by 63 percent.

TIME also claimed that vegetarianism could reduce healthcare costs by $1 trillion each year.

While the Beacon Editorial Board isn’t suggesting all students adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet, the increased inclusivity of vegetarian meals at the SUB could reduce students’ meat intake, increase health and save the environment.

It would especially make the lives of people who are participating in Lent a little easier when they aren’t used to navigating the vegetarian life.

Some students have had to opt out of the meal plan service entirely. With the lack of Kosher meals offered, Jewish students are left with little options. One student who no longer has a meal plan said: “I don’t have a meal plan because I wasn’t able to eat there [in the SUB]. Being a Kosher student, there was nothing for them to offer me so I had to opt out.”

Luckily, the student who spoke to The Beacon lives in University Towers, so has access to a proper kitchen and cooking equipment. However, what about the students who don’t have access to such facilities in some of the residence halls? While a shared kitchen is handy for snacks and making small meals, it’s not exactly ideal if for cooking every meal.

Healthy eating in general can sometimes be a difficult experience. With pizza offered at all times, the large variety of high-sugar cereals, and a lack of vegetables at some serving stations, it’s all too tempting to choose an unhealthy option over a nutritious meal.

The fact of the matter is, all resident students are required to purchase a meal plan. Freshmen are required to purchase the Colonel Gold plan, which costs $2,785 per semester. For students who remain on campus for the rest of their years, the cheapest meal plan is $2,427.

If you’re a vegetarian, or have a niche dietary requirement, are you really getting the most from your money when you have to ask for a meal that should arguably be readily available?