As a vegetarian student at UT, I have firsthand experience with the limited dining hall choices for students with plant-based diets. While the Unlimited Meal Plan’s complimentary $300 Dine In Dollars and $100 Bevo Pay each term offers access to more options, the low budget for these offered payment methods poses an issue.
In order to further accommodate vegetarian students, UT should offer them access to the Flex Meal Plan at a discounted rate.
University Housing and Dining currently offers three student meal plans. Specifically, the Flex Meal Plan gives students more flexibility on how they spend their dining money. On this alternative dining hall plan, students forfeit the Unlimited Meal Plan and instead receive $1,750 Dine In Dollars and their customary $100 Bevo Bucks per term. Typically, students must pay an additional $500 dollars per term to take advantage of this alternative meal plan. However, vegetarian students deserve a discounted rate, as they pay the same amount as non-vegetarian students for significantly fewer food options.
The hardest part about being a vegetarian student on the UT campus is the lack of flexibility. Students with vegetarian diets have a difficult time finding satisfying food options.
Becca Younger, a journalism freshman, shared that vegetarian students often have to get creative in order to find accommodating dining hall food options.
“I feel like I have to be a chef in the dining hall; I try to mix it up,” Younger said.“It’s hard because I tried to get fruit, vegetables and protein for most meals, but one of those is missing most of the time.”
While the food choices are limited in the dining hall, better access to alternative on-campus food establishments allows vegetarian students to get their money’s worth. Vegetarian students like Younger believe that the options in the dining hall are, “not fulfilling in the slightest.”
Neha Nirmal, a neuroscience freshman, expressed her desire to get on-campus food outside of the dining halls.
“Honestly, there are some days in the dining hall where I can only eat broccoli and like a salad or something,” Nirmal said. “So I do think it would help to be able to go out and get something more fulfilling (and) more nutritious.”
While some vegetarian students have the option to go out and buy food off campus, not all students can afford this privilege. Additionally, on-campus food is more convenient for students to get in between classes. For example, Littlefield Patio Cafe offers vegetarian breakfast tacos, and Cypress Bend Cafe offers a vegetarian cheese sandwich, great to-go options for plant-based students to get with their Dine In Dollars.
Vegetarian students deserve the convenience of on-campus food options that cater to them, since they’re paying for this food plan like every other student. Students that are plant-based shouldn’t have to go off campus to find food options that satisfy them and sacrifice their time.
Josue Rodriguez, assistant director of marketing and communications for UHD, explained that UT is focused on inclusivity in their dining hall plans. UT created FAST lines in some of the dining halls, which are dedicated to students with common allergens. Additionally, all dining halls offer vegan options, with Jester City Limits and Kinsolving Dining containing a dedicated vegan line.
While University Housing and Dining does its best to provide for students with all kinds of dietary restrictions, these designated lines still offer limited options to vegetarian students, taking away their freedom of choice. With more access to alternative payment methods on the Flex Meal Plan, vegetarian students can be better accommodated on UT’s campus.
Muthukrishnan is a government freshman from Los Gatos, California.