Dining hall disappoints vegetarians

With enough willpower, there aren’t too many challenges that come with being a vegetarian. My mother’s dedication in the kitchen and the trendy food scene of my hometown made a vegetarian diet easy. But three months after coming to college – and almost two years after taking up vegetarianism – the lack of options in the dining hall constantly makes me consider returning to a meat-based diet.

Upon first arriving at the University of Miami, the dining hall seemed promising: a cereal and salad bar, ice cream and yogurt machines and different food stations to choose from – all conveniently placed a short walk from the dorms. With so much variety, the possibility of ever being dissatisfied with the dining hall seemed slim.

But, of course, it happened. As time progressed and students returned to campus after the “hurrication,” the quality of dining hall food seemed to decline. Now, I constantly find myself eating Lucky Charms and filling up on bread and butter.

Lucky charms and toast have become an unsavory staple in freshman Andrea Illan's vegetarian diet. For students with dietary restrictions, the lack of variety in the dining halls can be frustrating. Photo credit: Amanda Prats

The reality is that only a few of the choices are truly enjoyable. The salad and fruit bar foods tend not to be fresh, and the veggie burger from the burger station is a pre-packaged patty. And for students with a more restrictive diet, this lack of food diversity can make it hard to find even an “okay” meal, since there simply is not enough to choose from in the first place. The same scenario arises at takeout: with only a few vegetarian choices per day, this potential solution is no upgrade.

According to research conducted by personal finance website WalletHub, Miami is the No. 9 best city for vegans and vegetarians — so shouldn’t our dining hall reflect that? In a city that values health and fitness, the trends in dining hall food seems especially out of place. A lack of access to varied, nutritious options on campus conflicts with many students’ desire to eat fresh and clean, making it easier for them to slip into less healthy habits down the line.

Certainly, there are worse places to eat than the dining hall. Not every meal is awful — but considering what students pay for our meal plans, it only makes sense that there should be more high-quality options. Students can contribute to positive change by engaging in conversations with administration, sending emails or voicing their opinions on the school dining website, www.dineoncampus.com/Miami. With time and a bit of student engagement, the potential of the dining hall can finally be realized.

Andrea Illan is a freshman majoring in journalism and political science.