How does SAC handle vegetarian cuisine? The Crier takes a closer look

Meghan Schmitt, Culture Editor

Saint Anselm College’s prestige for its food is widely known; it has been consistently ranking 8th nationally for best food according to the Princeton Review.  How well does it do, however with non-standard diets?

Many people on campus have dietary restrictions to varying degrees of severity.  Many students have allergies to nut products. Some students avoid certain meats for their faith, and others have to avoid gluten.  A small (but no less important) group of students opt to eat vegetarian and vegan for personal reasons.

Approximately 24-50 vegetarian meals are prepared every day, according to the director of Dining Services Rosemary Stackpole.  She is committed to creating an accommodating menu for all students on campus.

“Be proactive.  Come to me if you feel you’re missing something. Tell us, and we’ll bring it in. Easy fixes. I’m always open to new ideas,” she said.  

Though everything in Davison is labeled, Stackpole did confirm that nut products are never used on the hotline, nor is soy oil used in the kitchen.   

When asked about the initiative for inclusive dining, she stated, “It’s been around ever since I’ve been here, 15 years.  We’ve always had a hot vegetable dish for lunch and dinner.”

Vegetarian students on campus are overall pleased with the college’s effort to maintain wholesome options.

Senior History and Secondary Education major Caitlin Williamson commented, “I always appreciated in Davison how every vegetarian/vegan meal is clearly marked on the menus (sometimes things like chicken broth can be sneaky and be in foods that otherwise appear vegetarian-friendly.) It was more difficult being a vegetarian because there was only one main entree option instead of the four or so that meat-eaters could choose from, but I thought there was usually a wide variety of sides available, and almost always one of the soups. The salad bar is also great to have since it is so large and changes up. I appreciate all the options I have, since I know by not eating meat it is a choice I make to restrict myself, and I appreciate the work Dining does to ensure there are interesting and varied choices for each meal.”

Junior Emily Maier also said, “I’ve always found Dave and C-Shop to be really accessible (at least for me as a vegetarian, I can’t speak for vegans). At Dave, the salad bar always has a lot of variety, there are quite a few vegetarian soups offered each week, and, of course, there’s the daily vegetarian option. As far as most college dining halls go, I’d say St. A’s does a pretty good job of offering vegetarian options!”

Though Saint Anselm has a supportive dietary program for a minority of its students, a few minor critiques still rose to the surface.

Alumnus Alanna Tremblay admitted, “I found it difficult to find something to eat. I was not a fan of how they cooked tofu and sometimes it was used in both lunch and dinner. Maybe they’ve expanded because there was only one vegetarian option and if you didn’t like it then you were screwed. Even getting a veggie burger at the grill was difficult because it’s cooked in the same place where meat it. Would have been nice to keep that separate.”

Stackpole commented on this critique, highly aware of the dangers of cross-contamination which could occur by using the same cooking service for vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals.  

“If someone is a strict vegetarian in this sense, they can e-mail me or my assistant, and we can make sure that a veggie burger can be prepared separately in the kitchen for them, away from the main grill,” she said.  

Other critiques were addressed in terms of diet balance with Saint A’s vegetarian and vegan options.  

Williamson said, “C-Shop is more difficult. While there are some vegetarian options (veggie burger, grilled veggie wrap, nachos, etc.) they aren’t as clearly marked on C-Shop’s menu as they are in Dav. Also, I’m not vegan, but I get the sense that Cshop would be a pretty difficult place to eat as a vegan (cheese everywhere!)”  

Maier commented, “The only issue I find is that a lot of alternate vegetarian options are really carb heavy. Pasta, pizza, and grilled cheese are always available but that kind of diet obviously isn’t very sustainable. C-Shop has similar problems, as most vegetarian options (aside from salads or veggie burgers) are usually things like grilled cheese, cheesy bread, nachos, etc. So, while there are plenty of options on campus, sometimes it can be hard to stick to a balanced diet.”

Sophomore Elizabeth Kelly also added, “ I was vegan when I came to the school but had to quickly give it up. Salad bar and French fries were marked vegan, and even if you got creative, you can only do so much with what’s available. There are so many yummy vegan recipes I just wished it was more inclusive.”

No system is perfect, but Saint Anselm does strive to provide wholesome meals on campus which benefit every student possible.  Though dietary restrictions do impose irritating limits, meals such as the vegetable wrap/hero at the Coffee Shop, or the stuffed pepper, bean ragout, and baked stuffed acorn squash in Davison Hall do offer some relief.  Most importantly, Dining Services want an open channel of communication with students who have concerns about the college’s meal program.