Last semester, Student Congress passed Resolution 11-19, a resolution aimed at making healthy, plant-based meals more accessible in the Connection Cafe. The resolution, inspired by the all-vegan dining hall at the University of North Texas, called for increased vegan options and ingredient labels on all foods served in the cafe.
After the resolution was passed, it was sent to President Spaniolo’s office for review. Nursing senior Zak Murphy, a student senator on the resolution’s research committee, has kept me updated with the progress of the resolution. While it is well-known that resolutions can take time to implement, Spaniolo’s course of action came as a disappointment to both of us–as we had both worked very hard to get the resolution on the table.
Spaniolo sent the resolution back to Student Congress, informing them that he forwarded it to David Albart (Director of Housing and the University Center) from Dining Services. In Spaniolo’s opinion, the needs of the students were already being met but not communicated effectively. Murphy told me that he has heard this noncommittal answer from Dining Services before, during his research process. To hear it again from Spaniolo, after several months of research and collaboration is disheartening, at the least.
If Spaniolo’s opinion was accurate, Resolution 11-19 would not have garnered so much support from our diverse student community. In addition to its unanimous passage in Student Congress, the resolution was co-authored by no less than eight student groups. Even the student senators on the research committee personally visited the Connection Cafe and discovered the need for changes firsthand.
Contrary to President Spaniolo’s opinion, a great number of students recognized that not all of our needs were being met. We were determined to ensure that our collaborative efforts with Student Congress would not go unnoticed by Dining Services.
Not long after we received news of President Spaniolo’s review, we approached Dining Services directly. The Vegan Club’s treasurer, education junior Andrea Fleeman, scheduled a meeting with Chee Wee Lee from Dining Services. It was not the first time Vegan Club had sent a representative to them, but it was certainly the first time we got such a receptive response.
Armed with a copy of resolution 11-19 and a list of concerned emails and comments from various students, Fleeman had a productive discussion with Dining Services. She emphasized that she lives on campus and is directly impacted by the lack of vegan options on a daily basis.
Dining Services informed Fleeman that they had actually never heard of Resolution 11-19, but they were very eager to start working on implementing the proposals in the resolution. They kept the copy of Resolution 11-19, as well as the comments and emails for reference.
I greatly appreciate these efforts from Dining Services, but I do not appreciate that for whatever reason, President Spaniolo didn’t pass the resolution thoroughly to Dining Services.
Finally, some results:
Dining Services promised Fleeman that the vegetarian station would be changed to an all vegan station in the Connection Cafe. In addition, separate utensils will be used, and the staff will be trained to know the difference between vegetarian and vegan.
“The staff is really making an effort to understand veganism. One of them even approached me during dinner to advise me to get a smoothie without white sugar at the smoothie station. I really appreciate that they are even paying attention to things like bone-char processed sugar!” said Fleeman.
The promised date of the changes was September 19th, but it is apparent that Dining Services is still working on the transition.
Currently the vegetarian station offers no vegan items during the weekend. However, from her recent experiences, Fleeman says students can request vegan meals and the staff will oblige.
Ingredient labels have yet to be seen, but Dining Services assured us that they would be keeping us updated on the progress of vegan dining at Connections Cafe. Meanwhile, students are encouraged to approach the dining staff for help with food allergies or finding vegan options.
We’re not done yet!
Murphy and I have expressed our concerns with Student Congress president Jennifer Fox. We were told that Student Congress has scheduled future meetings with Spaniolo and Dining Services.
Fox has recently become the Chair of the Dining Services Committee for Apartment and Residence Life, so she will be meeting with Dining Services regularly. She says the dialogue will continue until the resolution’s proposals are completed in their entirety.
How have your experiences been with Dining Services lately? Have you noticed any positive changes, or do you have any concerns? Please share in the comments below!