It has become an almost iconic part of school: the bad cafeteria food. Lukewarm mystery meats and strange sauces concocted by burly lunch ladies wearing hairnets.
Today, students have a variety of foods to choose from, but are schools giving students much of choice with their dietary lifestyles? According to the Vegetarian times, approximately 7.3 million people in the U.S. chose to leave meat off their plates, one million of those being vegans. The issue most non-meat eaters face is the availability of vegetarian friendly food in other places, such as restaurants, events, and even schools. In a study conducted in 2009, researchers Morgan Childers and Harold Herzog, found that 25 percent of vegetarians resumed eating meat because of the hassle to prepare meat-less entrees. Childers and Herzog also found that many vegetarians found the menu for non-meat eaters at restaurants to be lack-luster and boring.
Unfortunately, students do not get to pick what the cafeteria menu is and are often stuck with whatever is served, even if it does not fit with their dietary preference. While some schools may opt for neutral foods such as pizza, mac and cheese and spaghetti to avoid the issue, they lack any nutritional value. Olivet College provides students with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that can satisfy any student’s craving.
But, with Lent coming to a close in just two weeks, students and staff are finding it increasingly difficult to find things to eat. Daniel Martin, a junior, doesn’t find it difficult to eat most of the time. “I can always have a salad, or a bowl of cereal, but sometimes I want something hot to eat and a lot of the entrees have meat and I’m a vegetarian so it’s hard,” he said.
Ben Marciniak–Jennings, director of Dining Services at Olivet College, and his staff aim to “Offer a wide variety of eating options, both healthy and ‘fun’ that satisfy the largest segments of our guests as often as possible.” Marciniak-Jennings believes that every dietary preference is met at every meal, from cheeseburgers to vegetable stir-fry. While not every student’s palette can be satisfied every time, Marciniak-Jennings said he does the best he can to provide for every type of diet and then some. “I would encourage guests to talk to us if they have a need and we will be able to come up with something,” he said.
Student surveys have also become a way for students and staff to give their feedback on what they’d like to see. For information, contact Marciniak-Jennings at firstname.lastname@example.org.