A long table of wraps, salads and spring rolls sits on a table in an empty room. It’s halfway through the Humber Veggie Club’s meet-up and of the 100 people in the club, no one has showed up yet. The pizza is cold.
The event was supposed to be for people from the club to support each other, talk about vegetarianism and perhaps get their friends involved over some good veggie food.
“Last event we got food from outside campus,” said Andre Cordoba, president of the Veggie Club at Humber. “That was challenging because Chartwells has a contract with Humber – they’re the only ones allowed to serve food on campus.”
Cordoba said that a lot more people came out last time.
“People loved it. It was supposed to be a couple hours event and we finished (the food) in 40 minutes,” he said.
Cordoba said he wanted these events to be about creating awareness about vegan (no eggs, fish or dairy, as well as no meat) and vegetarianism and show people that they still enjoy food despite the restrictions. He said there are many vegetarian proteins that imitate the taste and texture of meats.
“Usually what people say is, ‘I would do it but I love meat.’ Now with (vegetarian meat) there’s no excuse – it tastes like that, the texture’s like that, and there’s protein in it as well,” he said.
He said the problem with serving campus food at these events is that, like most food caterers and restaurants, Chartwells doesn’t specialize in vegetarian dishes.
“There’s usually just one option. You get the vegetarian burrito and it’s basically just a burrito without the meat. It’s the same for every other restaurant,” said Cordoba. “Vegetarianism is not just the dish without the meat.”
Don Henriques, Manager of Campus Services, said the school offers some alternatives in the salad bar and in the On-The-Go pre-packaged food items but admits the campus options are limited.
“I certainly understand what they’re saying. For some of the brands…their focus is not on a protein alternative, they just focus on the non-meat options that they currently have,” said Henriques. “It’s something we would need to work with the brands on.”
Bianca Gaibor, 18, is a law clerk student at Humber who has found it difficult to restrict her diet.
“All within a year I was vegetarian, then I went raw vegan, then I went vegetarian again and then I went pescatarian (no meat except fish),” she said.
She restricted her diet for religious, moral and health reasons but struggled to stick to it – particularly when she was raw vegan.
“That was very, very challenging,” she said. “It’s expensive, it’s hard to go out, it’s hard to eat around your family because there’s so many restrictions.”
“I never ate at school,” she said.
Henriques said that accommodating dietary restrictions is an issue of communication.
“Our challenge is to offer the types of vegetarian options that students are looking for.
“We need to find a tool to reach out to students and get immediate feedback,” he said.