Life as a Vegetarian at Smith: Is It Really as Hard as We Think?

Photo by Sara Del Villar '17 | Northrop and Gillett dining halls serve vegetarian and vegan meals for lunch and dinner.

Photo by Sara Del Villar ’17 | Northrop and Gillett dining halls serve vegetarian and vegan meals for lunch and dinner.


Tyra Wu ’19
Assistant Features Editor

In recent years, more young people have chosen to follow vegetarian and vegan diets. According to a 2004 survey from the food service company Aramark, 25 percent of college students polled said having vegan options was “important” to them.

There are many reasons to consume fewer animal products, including health benefits and supporting animal rights. In addition, films like “Food, Inc.” and “Supersize Me,” as well as grassroots movements by activist groups, have influenced young people’s eating habits.

While most colleges are notorious for serving unappetizing food and few options, Smith offers a multitude of options with 15 dining halls, including Northrop and Gillet, which serve vegetarian and vegan meals daily. Even in other dining halls, Smith generally offers vegetarian and vegan options at each meal.

“The adjustment to Smith has been better than I ever expected – the vegan food is very accessible, especially since I live in Upper Elm, where Northrop and Gillett are located,” Julia Falkner ’19 said.

Furthermore, Smith Dining Services is willing to meet students’ dietary needs. Students with concerns or questions can email the director of dining services, Andy Cox. Dining Services also has guidelines for vegetarians posted in the FAQ section of their website, which includes suggestions such as consuming high-protein foods, eating a variety of foods and ensuring they eat iron and calcium-rich items every day.

However, it can be difficult for students to know whether a food item is vegan or vegetarian simply by looking at it.

I find it helpful when potential allergens or food preferences are listed in every dining hall, not just the ones with specialized food,” Falkner said. “It’s easier to pick out dishes to eat when I can see if they contain dairy or eggs from the sign alone.”

For athletes who require greater amounts of protein and have limited schedules, eating vegetarian or vegan can be quite challenging.

I think I would have absolutely no problem at Smith if I wasn’t an athlete. My favorite dining halls are the vegetarian ones, but I can never go to them during season,” Michaela Stamm ’17 said.

Although vegans and vegetarians might not have as many options as other students, Northrop and Gillet often recreate dishes that typically contain meat or dairy using substitute ingredients instead.

“I like that it’s usually possible to piece together a good vegan or vegetarian meal from any dining hall’s side dishes, salad bar and sandwich materials, even if they’re serving chicken that night,” Falkner said. “Northrop-Gillett is usually worth the visit, considering they serve dairy-free versions of a lot of my favorite foods from before I stopped eating dairy like pizza, mac and cheese and mashed potatoes.”

No matter what, there are always times when students have to compromise in order to stick to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

“One tip for being vegetarian in college is that you’re going to have to start eating things you don’t necessarily like to keep healthy,” Stamm said. “Sometimes all you have is a cold bean salad, and you’re just going to have to eat it in order to eat well. A lot of the time it isn’t like that, but you can’t afford to be super picky.”

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