After some controversy among the vegan community at the University of North Georgia, the dining hall in Dahlonega, Chow, has undergone some changes in its labeling of vegan food.
Chow has been a topic of conversation with vegan students over its poor labeling. This includes a lack of proper labels, or, in some cases, any labels at all. As such, vegan students cannot ascertain which items are actually dairy-, egg- and meat-free.
“I think the improper labeling makes it hard to sustain the vegan lifestyle because I can never be sure if what I’m eating is actually vegan,” sociology major Severin Mangold said.
With the nature of the vegan labeling, several students have stopped eating in the dining hall altogether.
“Mostly I only get Dr. Pepper there now and leave in under five minutes,” English major Amanda Gardner said.
The dining hall’s website tells a different story by highlighting vegan options that are not in Chow. The website shows that the dining hall is full of vegan options, but once students arrive there are not nearly as many as advertised.
“However, there are a few good options,” Gardner said. “Vegan tacos, spaghetti with marinara sauce, roasted red potatoes and some frozen veggies if you can get someone to steam it for you.”
Tom Dove, general manager at Aramark, the food company under which UNG’s food services operates, says that the dining hall is implementing a vegan and vegetarian station inside of Chow.
“We always welcome feedback in order to improve our services,” Dove said. “In effort to meet the needs of those following a vegan or vegetarian diet we will relocate the vegan and vegetarian selections to ensure we avoid cross contamination and enhance visibility.”
When asked about the labeling issue and educating the staff, Dove stated that the dining hall plans to relocate the menu options to highlight what is vegan and vegetarian.
“The additional menu items will focus on flavorful dishes and variety,” Dove said. “These dishes will include core entrees and sides. We encourage our guests to mix and match to create a unique plate that fits their taste preference.”
Dove plans to train the dining hall staff members on which selections are vegan-friendly so that there is less confusion and students have access to food they can eat. When asked why these changes were made, Dove stated it was due to “student request.”
Gardner and Mangold are excited to see the dining hall adopt these new options.
“I am much more inclined to go to Chow!” Mangold said. “I’m glad to see that positive changes are now happening. I feel like I have a real choice now in what I can eat. I feel encouraged rather than discouraged from going to Chow. I look forward to tasty options.”
Gardner echoed Mangold’s excitement, believing this will be a helpful step for the vegan population at UNG.
“I am definitely stoked about the new vegan station,” Gardner said. “It feels like we’ve been able to change some things for vegans who eat at the dining hall. They seem to have the same foods as before, they’re just trying to be more conscientious of labeling.”
Gardner hopes to see an increase in not only clearly labeled vegan options, but also vegan alternatives in the new vegan and vegetarian section.
“I would suggest that there could be more vegan replacements like vegan pizza, vegan grilled cheese or more veggies cooked without dairy,” Gardner said.