Living vegan at Southern

Melissa Nunez – Opinions and Features Editor

It was after his freshman year that Marcello LaGreca, a senior interdisciplinary major, said he decided to give up on dorm life — given the struggle to find vegetarian-friendly food and the increased cost of living, it made sense to become a commuter.

LaGreca, now vegan since late December, said his lifestyle choice stemmed from a concern for the environment and out of health concerns.

“The reason I got into the health standpoint is because my dad has heart disease,” said LaGreca. “He had a stent put in my senior of high school, roughly four years ago.”

Lagreca said while he is “thankful” to see Southern respecting vegan and vegetarian diets by providing options in Conn Hall, he still avoids eating on campus. Given the quality of the produce, LaGreca said he commonly packs food or heads to vegan friendly eateries in the area, such as Edge of the Woods, Claire’s Corner Copia and the New Haven Salad Shop.

Cailey Howser, a senior collaborative education major, said she too had a tough time with dorm life.

Living vegan for the past four years, being a resident advisor in Chase Hall proved difficult given the small kitchen space and limited campus food options, said Howser.

“When you’re in the straight line, you have to be on a meal plan because they do not have adequate space for kitchens, so I had a lot of issues finding the proper food that I can eat,” said Howser. “It was just a lot of me preparing food in the little kitchen in the utility room and then using my mini fridge to store vegetables and produce, which takes a lot of space.”

When Howser made an attempt to change halls, she said they would only accommodate her if she had a medical issue, otherwise since being vegan was a choice, she would have to stick it out or leave the RA program.

“It’s kind of a frustrating thing, but kind of understandable from a [Residence] Life standpoint, but from somebody who’s a hardworking RA who wants to have a small accommodation,” said Howser. “So, I couldn’t return because I wasn’t placed in a kitchen.”

Like LaGreca, Howser said she also avoids the campus produce, since her vegan diet requires a whole food, plant based lifestyle, she generally stays away from processed foods. She added food labeling also needs to improve, especially since picking up an item labeled as vegan and finding meat inside.

But Howser said when students find themselves at a disadvantage, Southern is the ideal place for them to advocate for themselves. While she understands there are probably many reasons the campus choses its current food options, having an open dialogue about where to improve is the best way to ensure students get the most out of their experience on campus.

Luke McDermott-Grandpre, a junior psychology major and president of the Southern Chapter of the Humane Society, said while Conn Hall has improved significantly over the years, it was not always vegan friendly.

Joining the HSUS is sophomore year, McDermott-Grandpre said his group began to advocate for more vegetarian and vegan options around campus — since then Conn Hall has established a Rooted section, a burrito and stir fry area all providing vegan and vegetarian friendly options.

Improvements can still be made, said McDermott-Grandpre, such as the shortage of vegan and vegetarian options on weekends and breaks as well as providing more options in the Student Center, saying while places like Freshens provide vegan and vegetarian options, changes within the meal plan has limited those choices.

The HSUS hopes to make more of a presence on campus, advocating for animals, the environment and for nutrition, said McDermott-Grandpre. He added he hopes the HSUS will host more tabling events, fundraising opportunities and will attract more likeminded people to their meetings.

Photo Credit: Melissa Nunez

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