Author: Shilpa Bhongir
The Marketplace will now offer students an extended selection of vegetarian options on Mondays nights, as part of the nation-wide Meatless Mondays campaign to reduce meat consumption. The program, which came to Occidental on Sept. 17, features authentic Indian cuisine including various curries, vegetables, fried snack foods and desserts served at the pizza station.
Sous chef Conrad Gomez, who was heavily involved in organizing the initiative, explained the benefits of featuring Indian food in this new station. “Indian food is rich in vegetarian entrees, it is well-balanced and healthy,” Gomez said.
Campus Dining Services hired part-time employee Parmijit Kaur to come in on Sundays and Mondays every week to prepare the meals. Campus Dining did not go outside of budget to accommodate the new program or the hiring of the new employee.
“We like to constantly be innovating and in the course of that innovation we like to reflect what our students are asking for. You will always see changes. When we put in the Meatless Mondays station it was taking the place of something that was already worn out and lost its following,” Munoz said.
The Indian food station replaces a previous weekly stir-fry station. Most students, including many non-vegetarians, seem receptive to the new change.
“I am not a vegetarian, but I like vegetarian food, and I like food from different cultures. I think it’s great that Oxy is providing options here,” undeclared Caitlin Fein (sophomore) said.
Balvir Dhillon, an employee in Event Services who had previously cooked Indian food for various weddings and larger campus events, was asked to find a part-time employee to prepare the Meatless Monday meals.
“We decided if we want to do this concept, let’s look for someone who specifically has expertise in cooking vegetarian food,” Vice Associate for Hospitality Services Amy Munoz said.
Dhillon had met Kaur at a local temple, where Kaur had experience cooking for large religious gatherings.
Kaur interviewed with Gomez, Munoz and Executive Chef Ahmad Walid Osman for the job. All three supported the new hire.
Occidental’s Meatless Monday initiative differs from programs on other college campuses throughout the nation in that it does not eliminate all meat dishes from the dining hall on Mondays.
According to the Meatless Monday campaign website, over 100 schools have implemented the program, including colleges such as Scripps College, Pomona College, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, University of California Berkeley, New York University and Yale University.
President of the Occidental Vegetarian Club, Brandilyn Tebo (sophomore), believes campus dining should go farther in its meatless efforts.
“[Meatless Mondays] doesn’t make much of an impact at all because obviously the people who want to eat meat are going to avoid the station that says Meatless Mondays. It is pleasing to those who are already of the mentality that you should eat less meat, and it’s not affecting those who don’t understand the reasons why you should cut down your meat consumption,” Tebo said.
The campus has yet to release any specific information to the student body regarding its motivations for providing more vegetarian options. The original Meatless Mondays campaign, however, stemmed from a desire to improve public health and reduce the carbon footprint.
The campaign started through an initiative through the The Monday Campaigns, a group in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“[Campus dining] doesn’t say that Oxy is trying to cut down on meat consumption because we know about all of the health, environmental, humanitarian benefits of doing that. I think they could really get a lot more out of it if they told people the reasoning behind it. An institution like this has an opportunity to make a difference and to affect consumer demand,” Tebo said.
Campus dining directors have made a conscious choice in deciding to limit Meatless Mondays to one station to appease the entire student body.
“We have to be sensitive to the fact that if meat-eaters need somewhere to eat we don’t want to send them all over to the Cooler and make huge lines at the Cooler,” Munoz said. “We have to be practical about this. I have no interest in alienating my die-hard meat eaters either.”
Some students agree with Munoz’s concerns about turning the Marketplace completely meatless once a week.
“Meat is an important part of people’s diets. I feel like the proportion of vegetarians to non-vegetarians at the college wouldn’t be large enough to justify the change,” Sarah Klenha (first-year) said.
Campus Dining also considered the extra costs and labor that would be required to serve entirely vegetarian meals at the Marketplace.
“If we were to go vegetarian on Mondays that requires extra manpower and labor,” Gomez said. “Right now we are dedicating a great effort and time to this initiative and we are getting some good results.”
While the program may not be as large as those available on other campuses, it has appealed to a large number of students on campus.
“Rarely have we started something new that has got so much immediate reaction,” Munoz said.
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