Vegetarians have many reasons, limited options

02/22/08

The United States Department of Agriculture recalled 143 million pounds of beef this week, but one group of students on campus isn't worrying whether its food is tainted.

It's the same group of students who may have a slightly emptier plate as they step out of the lunch line: vegetarians.

When freshman Janelle Johnston slides her tray through the cafeteria line, she skips the chicken or roast beef and chooses the pasta option instead, or sometimes she hits the salad bar.

"My reasoning is that the animals are killed, and it's just the thought that it's from something that used to be living," she said. "There are lots of different reasons."

Like Johnston, Dean of Students Cassy Bailey first became a vegetarian because of the emotional aspect of the treatment of animals to be slaughtered, but in the course of her 21 years without meat, she has found new reasons to appreciate a vegetarian lifestyle.

"As I grow as an adult, it has become more political," Bailey said. "If you look at the resources that go into maintaining a cow, and the soybeans we can get more of off the land. One reason led me to others. It's not just local with my body (but) with global with the whole world and sustainability."

While Bailey's daughter has chosen to become a vegetarian, her husband and son still eat meat, but Bailey said that doesn't create problems in their household. She said about 85 percent of what her husband and son eat are vegetarian-friendly things she and her daughter also consume.

Bailey said one thing she finds interesting about her split family is that people will question her daughter's health when they find she doesn't eat meat but find nothing wrong with her son's tendency to leave his vegetables uneaten.

Ruth Sarna, director of student health services, said a vegetarian lifestyle can be very healthy as long as they make conscious choices to fit in sources of iron and protein like legumes, fruits and nuts.

"People think it's very restricted, but it's a healthy choice," Sarna said.

Junior Rachel Kilian's favorite vegetarian fare is tofu because of its versatility, but said it does have its downfalls.

"It sucks in flavor," she said.

Intending to stick to a vegetarian diet and actually doing it are two different things in some cases. Kilian, who stopped eating meat when she was 15 because she didn't agree with the treatment of animals, said some pitfalls for vegetarians are unlisted meats used as bases and sauces.

"Sometimes you slip and eat it and have to deal with it from there," she said.

Director of Food Service Darrell Bowersox said when choosing cafeteria menus, avoiding soups with an animal base like chicken stock is something he finds important.

"We want to make sure to respect them by being sure the food is truly vegetarian," Bowersox said.

While some slips may be subtle, junior Shalini Patel has only had one that she remembers well. Patel avoids meat because of her religion, and even though not all Hindus are vegetarians, her family has chosen to not eat meat. As a result, she has only eaten meat once in her life, and that was by mistake.

In high school, Patel and her friend each ordered a burrito, but she accidentally ate her friend's beef burrito instead of her bean one.

"I was eating it and thinking 'This is so disgusting,'" she said.

Baker vegetarians with a cafeteria meal plan may soon be getting relief from pasta and the salad bar.

Bowersox said since pasta is usually high in fat and calories, he is trying to find vegetarian options from food suppliers to be implemented this semester.

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