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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Some students find the UF vegan dining experience limited

Vegan students noticed lacking options

Nopal Dos at Midpoint Park and Eatery on SW 2nd Ave.
Nopal Dos at Midpoint Park and Eatery on SW 2nd Ave.

For vegan students like Maxine Sculthorpe, an 18-year-old UF biomedical engineering freshman, walking into a new dining hall can be intimidating because her food options are frequently limited to meager portions and subpar substitutes, she said.

“I'm vegan by choice, but some people are for religious, cultural reasons,” she said. “I feel like [dining halls] should really just be more easily accommodated for where you can easily figure out what your options are to eat.”

The Cravings Campus Kitchen, located at 114 Fletcher Drive, allows students to order an entree, a side and a dessert. While there are vegan options for entrees and sides, Sculthorpe pointed out the absence of a vegan dessert option.

All the other campus dining halls change the daily menu option once every four weeks, and there are both vegan entrees and plant-based substitutes available. 

“I know a lot of [vegan students] are looking for more of an entree, not just the sides, so we're trying to get there and implement more vegan options,” said Marc Cruz, the district executive chef.

The dining hall staff at UF has received students’ feedback. Syd Watkins, the campus dietitian, said the staff has been creating a more diverse food selection, including the addition of tofu scramble, lentil soup and sweet potatoes.

“We do try to cater more towards the trends of what students are wanting,” Watkins said. “I really think in the last year, we have added a lot more plant-based dishes as a whole to our dining halls.”

Gabriella Childers, an 18-year-old UF interior design freshman, said there is room for improvement but appreciated the expanding vegan menu.

“They definitely have tried to include some options, which is better than I've seen at some other places,” Childers said.

Moving forward, the dining hall staff is working toward collaborating with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to host farm-to-table events, where they will prepare dishes using locally sourced produce. 

Courtland Thomas, the district marketing director of Florida Fresh Dining, said it will also continue considering the students’ suggestions.

“I think the biggest thing is that students have to understand [that if] they connect with us, we'll provide them with as much information and accommodation as we can,” Thomas said.

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Gainesville features off-campus vegan restaurants students can visit, such as Plantology, the Vegan Gator Food Truck, Suki’s Vegan and Karma Cream.

Christiana Tomacari, a 22-year-old UF biochemistry senior, prefers buying groceries and cooking over being on a meal plan. She also enjoys exploring the vegan options that Gainesville has to offer.

“I think Gainesville is pretty good as far as [vegan options go],” Tomacari said. “Maybe on campus, it’s a little bit lacking, but everywhere around is better.”

Contact Annie Wang at Follow her on X @wynwg.

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Annie Wang

Annie Wang is a first-year journalism major and a University General Assignment writer for The Alligator. In her free time, she enjoys reading and writing reviews on Goodreads.

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