By Viktoriya Skuz
In recent weeks, Worcester State University has added a variety of pre-packaged, plant-based meals to its food selection. Dumplings, samosas, and spinach noodles are among the ready-to-eat options now available in several locations on campus including the POD and library café.
The meals allow students with specific dietary needs the chance to have a meal in between classes without having to wait.
Gavin W. Poplawski, WSU student and vegetarian, said, “It’s nice to know that there are considerations being made for students who choose not to eat meat.”
According to WSU dining director Jason L. Coombs, the choice to label foods ‘plant-based’ stems from the stigma surrounding the word ‘vegan’ and the instant disapproval many people have with food associated to the word.
“Labeling [vegan] food plant-based instead of vegan sounds more appealing to people,” Coombs said. “Give them something that you know they’re going to like and they won’t know that it’s healthy.”
The dining department is waiting upon approval for more plant-based options, including vegan ‘chicken cutlets’ which will be used as an ingredient in salads and wraps. Additionally, they are awaiting the OK to eliminate the dairy in the current garden burger. If students have concerns regarding their dietary needs, they are always welcome to ask the campus chefs to cook something special. Furthermore, they are free to set up a meeting with an executive chef and the head of dining to discuss meal options.
The incorporation of plant-based foods stems from not only a desire to be proactive about student concerns, but a corporate initiative to be ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainability.
District marketing manager Meghan A. Thulin said, “[Sustainability] is ever-growing and we’re trying to stay ahead of it…trying to create creative ways to market to the masses that are plant-based.”
Worcester State’s concern for reducing its carbon footprint has led to the addition of the ‘Freight Farm,’ a sustainable piece of equipment which allows up to an acre of land to be harvested at a time, providing the opportunity for the school to grow their own lettuce, herbs and kale. The vegetables are then used in the salad bar, 90 percent of which is already harvested locally. The school also hopes to involve more students in healthy eating by creating a full plant-based menu for ‘Earth Day’ coming up on April 19.
By integrating food options that are natural and delicious, WSU is creating a more wholesome student body, while also accomplishing their goals of becoming increasingly more sustainable and eco-friendly, one step at a time.