With the closure of The Wok and more limited options at Little Cocina, it seems Dining Services doesn’t realize that, contrary to popular belief, we vegetarians eat more than just rabbit food.
The Wok offered a tofu option with vegetables and rice, which provided vegetarian protein with a good source of amino acids and vegetables. Similarly, Cocina used to offer burrito bowls that could be customized to be vegetarian, containing beans, cheese, rice and vegetables. Now those options, and even the veggie quesadillas from Cocina, are gone.
Vegetarians are now left with a few options at Sammiches, Paavo’s and Grab n’ Go (where they are sparse and unpredictable), and either a cheese quesadilla or chips and cheese from Little Cocina. While Entrees offers a vegetarian option at each meal, it often isn’t sufficient for a meal, and sometimes they don’t have what’s offered on the screen. Even our options at the salad bar have been severely limited this year, with the new four-topping limit, which again means less vegetables and less nutritional value in my salad. Starbucks has a whopping three vegetarian sandwiches on the menu, but it seems they’re always out when I try to order one. I can’t even imagine being vegan at SIUE.
A healthy lacto-ovo vegetarian diet should contain plenty of green, leafy vegetables, citrus fruit, eggs, soy, legumes, seeds, whole grains, nuts and beans — in other words, more than just cheese-centered menu items or salads with four toppings.
Fourteen percent of college students are vegetarian or vegan, and of those students, 31 percent say the environment is their main motivation. For a campus that claims to be dedicated to sustainability, their dining options aren’t convenient for a diet that’s both sustainable and nutritious.
Even if I weren’t vegetarian, it would be difficult to find healthy options at the MUC, especially now that The Wok is gone. Sure, I would have the options of Boss Burger’s and Chick-fil-A, but with the exception of Chick-fil-A’s salads, they lack nutritional value (not to mention that many prefer not to eat at Chick-fil-A for moral reasons). Fries and sweets, however, are easy to find.
There are several ways to fix this problem. We could return to weighing salads while still having an employee make them for safety reasons, or at least do away with the topping limit. Little Cocina could bring back burrito bowls and veggie quesadillas. While Entrees does incorporate vegetable sides and options such as falafel into their menu, they could include an option that is similar to something we would’ve found at The Wok. They could even have more than one vegetarian option. Grab n’ Go could offer vegetarian microwaveable meals, salads, wraps and almond milk more consistently.
I’ve been encouraged by the addition of fresh fruit to Grab n’ Go and the salad bar. Hopefully SIUE continues to make similar additions to promote the health of everyone on campus.