Vegetarians At BC

By Jacqueline Puglisi | May 2, 2011 | RSS

Lydia Freeman pours two bottle caps of cooking oil into the wok at the stir-fry station. She uses a pair of tongs to toss mushrooms, zucchini and yellow squash onto a plate and then into the heated wok. She then walks over to the salad bar and adds spinach, olives, onions, green peppers and tomatoes to her plate. She adds the ingredients to the vegetables in the wok along with garlic salt, basil and Italian seasoning. The mixture sits in the wok until the spinach has cooked down and the vegetables are heated through.


This is Lydia’s vegetarian lunch for the day.


Lydia became a vegetarian in May 2010 to be more health conscious, but recently she started incorporating some meat in her diet in preparation for her trip to China this month. When given the choice, Lydia would rather eat a vegetarian meal. Like Lydia, many students at Bluefield College have chosen a vegetarian lifestyle, each one finding different ways to accommodate their needs in the school cafeteria.


From January through March, Carrie Smith decided to become a vegetarian. She found it difficult in BC’s cafeteria because she didn’t feel she had much of a variety to choose from. Panini sandwiches, stir-fry and salads every day became very boring, she said. She began to allow herself to eat meat—but only on weekends--to break up the monotony of what she ate during the week. She said the options the cafeteria offered for vegetarians weren’t very versatile. Carrie is no longer a vegetarian, but she still limits her meat consumption to once a day.


Emily Waddell, a freshman student at BC, has been a vegetarian for four years. She gave up most meats for the season of Lent and never went back. Emily is a pescatarian, which means the only meat she eats is fish and seafood. When she came to BC the transition was difficult because she didn’t feel she had a lot of options in the cafeteria.


“I ate salad and stir-fry every day for two weeks,” she said. “Then I just resorted to the rolls and pizza.”


Like Emily, Alli Spraker is also a pescatarian. Alli is thankful she incorporates fish in her diet because she has that option in the cafeteria over other meats.


“There’s not a lot that the cafeteria fixes that is just strictly vegetables,” Alli said. “They do fish a lot and that is a nice alternative.”


Alli was nervous when she first came to BC because she didn’t know what to expect in terms of what the cafeteria served every day. She said it hasn’t been as hard as she thought it would be since the cafeteria serves hot vegetable options to accompany the main course.


Both Emily and Alli have noticed recent and positive changes in what the cafeteria has been serving. The spaghetti sauce used to have ground beef mixed in, but now a meatless sauce has replaced it. Veggie burgers have also become an option, and any student can have one made upon request in lieu of a hamburger or chicken sandwich.


The main reason the cafeteria has started to change its menu is because of a new awareness of the needs of vegetarians on campus. Jenny Phillips, Food Service Director at BC, has recently started a vegan diet due to health reasons.


“It wasn’t until being prompted to do that myself for health reasons that I really understood how they struggle to find things to eat,” Jenny said. “It’s made me look at the whole thing differently.”


Jenny has been on a vegan diet since February and said it is not an easy process. Dining out and going to the grocery store are difficult because so many foods come from animals. Being a vegan means Jenny can’t eat anything that comes from an animal, including dairy, eggs, and even sugar or white flour because animal products are often used in processing them. She had to pace herself and knew she could not become a vegan overnight. Even her physician said she tried it and it was the hardest thing she had ever done.


Before Jenny became vegan she thought the salad bar and stir-fry station were enough for vegetarian options. Students eat over 200 meals in the cafeteria each semester, and Jenny realized that having the same selections every day would be difficult and boring for any vegetarian or vegan. She then began to change things around by taking the meat out of the spaghetti sauce, offering veggie burgers and exploring more vegetarian-friendly main courses. She even created a hummus pita sandwich with spinach, onions and cucumbers as an option at the Starbucks kiosk. 


During the fall 2011 semester Jenny plans to incorporate many more vegetarian options in the cafeteria. She will do what she can to accommodate any person with dietary needs.


“I encourage any vegan or vegetarian to come let me know what they are,” Jenny said.


She is open to recipes from students and any suggestions they have. Carrie said she would like to see more vegetarian lasagna and eggplant parmesan offered while Lydia has asked for soy milk that does not have vanilla flavoring because of the sugar content.


Though major changes of the cafeteria’s vegetarian options will not happen until the fall, Lydia is content to make creations at the stir-fry station. She is anxious to resume her vegetarian diet when she returns from China and make more creations including pesto pasta with olives, tomatoes and spinach. She also likes to toast flat bread with vegetables and melted cheese. Regardless of what is being served at the cafeteria, Lydia has some advice for vegetarians on campus.


“Be conscious of what you eat and try to eat balanced meals with nutrition because if you’re not going to eat nutritiously, you’re just going to get sick, and you’re going to have a lot of health problems as a vegetarian unless you’re very conscious about your nutrients,” she said.


Incorporating a lot of protein in a vegetarian diet is also important, and Lydia encourages vegetarians to eat a lot of spinach, green vegetables, nuts, grains and rice to get their required protein. She also said it is important to be creative with a vegetarian diet and stay motivated. Being creative with her meals is one of the biggest things that has helped Lydia keep up with a vegetarian diet.