Rosemary Chesney, Campus Carrier arts and living editor

Berry College Dining Services provides food to students with all dietary restrictions including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free restrictions. In the past six months, Dining Services has intentionally made changes in the food options to accommodate more students with these dietary restrictions.

Samuel Cooper became the general manager of Dining Services six months ago and oversees all dining at Berry including retail, catering and residential dining. He said that since coming to work at Berry, one of the main objectives for Dining Services has been enhancing the options for students with dietary restrictions. 

“We want to accommodate any student that comes here,” Cooper said. “We want to give people options and make sure they have the ability to eat good food comfortably.”

In the past two months, Dining Services hired two cooks that specialize in cooking vegan food. Germany Miller is currently the main cook and the other specialized cook is still in training. Dining Services added a vegan dessert, entree and soup for every meal. They have also added a vegan grain bowl at mealtimes. This semester, Dining Services added a vegan breakfast to be available in the mornings. 

“We’ve gotten great feedback on the changes and see that more people are eating at the vegan station,” Cooper said. “We’re pretty happy with the changes ourselves and it seems like the students are as well.”

Junior Jamie Bell has been a vegetarian for 10 years after making a New Year’s resolution when she was 12 and sticking with it. She said that the dietary restriction options at the dining hall have gotten a lot more inclusive since she was a freshman in 2020.  She said that it was difficult during COVID to provide sufficient food options for students with dietary restrictions. Since this year, she said the menu for the vegan section has gotten more accessible which allows her to prepare for  meals ahead of time. Also, the addition of Freshens added a lot of options, including salads and bowls, for vegetarians like her.

“I do think Berry dining has gotten a lot better this year with accommodations,” Bell said. “Being vegetarian at Berry is worth it for me just because it’s not that difficult for me personally and it’s a small way of feeling like I’m making a difference.”

Even with dining hall changes, there are still many challenges for students with dietary restrictions. According to Bell, it can be a challenge to find other vegan options that you like at the dining hall if you dislike the main vegan option for the day. 

She said that where you live is also an important factor because if you live on campus without a personal kitchen, making vegan foods can be difficult. Since Bell has lived in a dorm every year at Berry, she has had to become more creative with the types of foods she cooks for herself. 

“I personally love to cook so I do a lot of cooking myself because I just want to make sure I’m meeting all of my nutritional needs,” Bell said. “Sometimes the dining hall has options, but it’s not always something I want to eat.”

Freshman James Keith has been a vegetarian for the past nine years and vegan for the past three. Keith said that if there was one thing he could change about Berry’s options for dietary restrictions, it would be adding more protein into the meals. Rice, noodles and cooked vegetables are cycled through often, but he said he has noticed a lack of mock meats and tofu. 

“Some of the meals feel unfulfilling just because they’re so plain due to the lack of any vegan protein sources being paired with them in the same way that they would in a non-vegan meal,” Keith said. “However, overall the food is still pretty decent, if not a little repetitive.”

According to Cooper, the dining hall is now shifting their focus from vegan accommodations to gluten-free accommodations. He also said that the dining hall services welcome input from students and faculty.

“Any chance we get to add more options to the dining hall to accommodate more students is something we care about,” Cooper said. 

Posted by Campus Carrier

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