Amy Stuhlman walks straight to the salad bar in Commons Dining Hall, passing the other food stations without hesitation.
Stuhlman, political science freshman, fixes a plate of iceberg lettuce and dressing. Stuhlman said as a vegan, this is typically the only meal she can eat in the dining halls.
Chin-Hong Chua, Chartwells interim service director, said vegan students like Stuhlman are not restricted to only salads, and the university provides a variety of foods for special dietary needs.
However, Stuhlman said it is hard to find foods she can eat other than salad and hummus in the dining halls. As a vegan, Stuhlman does not eat or wear animal products. Eating the same meals of salad and hummus every day gets boring after a while, she said.
Texas State requires first-year students to buy a meal plan each semester. Stuhlman said she asked the school if she could be excused from buying a meal plan due to her restricted diet, but was told it was required. The smallest resident meal plan averages about 10 meals per week and costs $1,033 dollars, according to the DineOnCampus webpage on the Texas State website.
Stuhlman would normally purchase all her food from a grocery store, but she feels obligated to eat on campus because her parents had to buy the meal plan.
“Texas State encourages diversity, yet they don’t support vegans,” Stuhlman said. “Veganism is a culture in its own.”
John Root, director of Auxiliary Services, said vegan students who have trouble finding something to eat can talk to the chefs at dining halls, particularly Harris and Commons Dining Halls, who can give special accommodations. Students can request for salads to be prepared without chicken, or burgers to be made without cheese, even though places like Chick-fil-A might not have vegan options readily available.
“We do have flexibility beyond what the student would see when they walk up to the counter,” Root said. “You just have to be creative and not too shy to ask.”
Chua said students can have ingredients from the salad bars cooked to order by the chefs. Vegans can take advantage of the “MyPantry” sections of the dining halls, which offer less popular options such as soymilk. There is a vegetarian and vegan line in each dining hall. For example, vegan pasta and vegan tofu tacos can be found in Jones Food Court.
Boko’s Mongolian Grill was included in the renovation of Commons this summer, primarily to give the vegans and vegetarians on campus more food options, Root said.
“In all of our menu development, we always make sure we have vegetarian or vegan options, even in meal trades,” Chua said.
Chua said Chartwells plans to add a vegetarian/vegan options list to the DineOnCampus webpage listing different food options available in all dining halls.
Stuhlman said there are a lot of vegetarian options that could easily be made vegan. Many of the dining halls provide veggie burgers with cheese already on them. If the cheese was only added by request, then vegans could eat the burgers. The veggie burgers could be substituted with black bean burgers, and grilled vegetables could be offered unbuttered to make them vegan-friendly.
Stuhlman said Chartwells could make a guidebook detailing the ingredients in its foods available in the dining halls. She said it would be easier if the foods were labeled as vegan-friendly.
“At the end of the day, it’s just food,” Stuhlman said. “Food is just to satisfy you to live. I can have conversations and go out with friends without it centering on the dining halls.”