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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis in running for “Most Vegan Friendly College in US”

Published: October 26, 2012
Section: News, Top Stories

For the seventh year in a row, Brandeis is in the running to be the most vegan-friendly college in the United States, according to a study conducted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Brandeis was named the runner-up to Northwestern University last year, and is vying for first place this year. The year before, Brandeis lost in the contest semi-finals.

According to Marta Holmberg, Associate Director of Youth Outreach and Campaigns for peta2, PETA’s youth division, there are a total of 64 colleges nominated this year, 32 large schools and 32 small schools.

“Round winners are determined by the number of votes received, the quality and variety of vegan foods offered by the schools, the schools’ enthusiasm in promoting vegan options, and student feedback,” Holmberg said. “The two winning schools—one large U.S. school and one small U.S. school—will hold the title of Most Vegan-Friendly College for a year and will also receive certificates recognizing this honor to hang in the school’s dining halls.”

Since peta2 began its annual “most vegan-friendly college in the U.S.” contest seven years ago, the number of students who identify as vegetarian on U.S. college campuses has risen by 50 percent, and the number of vegan students has more than doubled. This leap at Brandeis has been aided by student activism, and Aramark’s receptivity to student feedback. Aramark, Brandeis’ food service provider, is highly conscious of student likes and dislikes, and has adjusted its dining hall menu this year to better serve the needs of vegan students.

“Just like all the nominees on our Most Vegan-Friendly Colleges list this year, Brandeis University has responded to student demand by offering delicious, cruelty-free dishes on campus, including vegan chili dogs, tofu scampi, sweet-and-sour vegan meatballs, and ginger-sesame noodles with tofu,” Holmberg said.

Director of Dining Services Aaron Bennos said Brandeis now offers an extensive range of vegan meals at multiple locations on campus. For example, students may choose between items like Indian pita wraps with cilantro-lime jicama slaw and bamboo broccoli salad, and sweet and sour vegan meatballs with steamed broccoli and toasted barley on a daily basis. “Many of the Amy’s products that are approved on the C-Meal list are both gluten free and vegan. Some are kosher, too. Sunneen products approved for the C-Meal in the P.O.D. Grab and Go cooler are all vegan.” Bennos said.

In addition to hundreds of other U.S. schools, both large and small, Brandeis Dining Services offers a variety of tasty non-vegetarian and non-vegan meal options as well. With new access to knowledge of how animals are bred and killed however, students nationwide are demanding vegetarian and vegan meal options for their own peace of mind, and to make an impact on the meat packing industry to show their support for pain-free ways of killing animals, free-range, cage-free meat and the environment.

In addition to meat-free diet choices, students are actively supporting sustainability and locally grown fruits and vegetables to support industry in Waltham and in Massachusetts. According to Bennos, Brandeis puts a high priority on the voice of its student body.

“There is an increased demand on vegan products, so we are increasing our offerings accordingly. However, I think many people are unaware of all the vegan products and menu items we do offer besides the Nature’s Balance location in the Usdan Café. We welcome ideas for menu items. We have also added more protein items to the salad bar based on student feedback,” Bennos said.

Vegan and vegetarian needs are but one unique category. According to Bennos, the real challenge Brandeis Dining Services faces is creating spaces where they can serve customers that present these dietary restrictions. There are students who keep kosher, are gluten free, dairy free, have allergies to peanuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, wheat and more. Dining Services also displays their concern for animal welfare in all campus locations by offering cage-free eggs, purchases locally grown products when in season and recycles and composts most of its trash.

“To give Brandeis the best chance possible, students who want to support their school in this competition should go to to vote. Round one voting ends on October 16, and final winners will be announced on Nov. 15,” Holmberg said.

“Dining is an important part of the college experience,” Bennos said. “By earning this recognition, we will feel proud that we are creating a positive experience for students who choose to be vegan.”