Let’s make plant-based foods the default on campus

A ‘default veg’ position on campus food is one way that universities can respond to the climate crisis.

Kathleen Kevany, University Affairs, Oct. 13, 2022

What can universities do to respond to the climate crisis? Our most obvious contributions may come from research and teaching across a range of disciplines: from ecology to the environmental humanities, from engineering to economics and beyond, scholars working in labs and classrooms are trying to mitigate the complex, urgent issues we face.

Yet universities are also much more than engines of research and education. They are societies in themselves, as well as cultural and economic drivers for the broader communities in which they are embedded. The contributions that the students, staff, and faculty who are gathered in universities can offer – and the leadership they can provide – come from many directions.

One critical change that is relatively accessible and affordable and more importantly, more equitable, is to adopt a “default veg” practice. This means changing the current practice of emphasizing meat dishes, to placing the spotlight on plant-based foods on our campuses, while still enabling the full range of dietary choices to be met.

Fulfilling our responsibilities to lead change

We know we need more sustainable food habits. The famous EAT-Lancet report demonstrated that largely plant-based, sustainable diets protect human health and our environments. We are enjoined to “eat local,” to cut food waste, and perhaps above all, to reduce our consumption of meat. The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change offered yet more evidence that animal agriculture is among the top contributors to our environmental crisis. Deforestation, soil degradation, habitat and biodiversity loss, animal emissions and waste all compound to make animal agriculture a driving force in global warming, just behind fossil fuel consumption. Even as we seek to limit our use of environmentally destructive fuels to fight climate change, so too must we rebalance our diets.

We also know that universities can be leaders when it comes to sustainability. I teach at Dalhousie University, where signature research clusters are grounded in  the United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals. Over 30 years ago, Dalhousie hosted a gathering of university leaders who committed to the Halifax Declaration. Echoing an earlier agreement signed in Talloires, France by university leaders from around the world, the agreement made at Dalhousie in 1991 espoused concrete goals and lofty aspirations to direct teaching, research, outreach, and operations toward an equitable and sustainable future. Both declarations affirmed not just the risks to our planet’s integrity but also the urgent responsibilities of universities to lead change….

[… Read more at University Affairs ]


Universities should lead on the plant-based dietary transition

Jochen Krattenmacher, Paula Casal, Jan Dutkiewicz, Elise Huchard, Edel Sanders, Nicolas Treich, et al., The Lancet, May 2023

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the EAT–Lancet Commission have pointed out in recent reports, substantial reductions in demand for animal-based foods are vital for achieving climate targets and for keeping food production within planetary limits. One might expect universities to heed such findings and adjust their food procurement accordingly, especially since they contributed to the research on which these reports are based. However, one only needs to visit a typical university canteen to find that this is not the case. This routine observation is confirmed by studies that have found animal-based food to contribute disproportionately to the environmental footprint of universities compared with plant-based food, and substantially so.
Even when leaving aside the contribution of animal-based food production to climate change, the case for shifting to alternatives, mostly plant-based foods, remains strong. Although impacts differ between different animal products, most economically significant animal-based food production contributes disproportionately to multiple, often all, of the following predicaments: the degradation and overexploitation of ecosystems, misallocation of water and land, risk of pandemics, air and water pollution, and animal suffering. These are all issues that, we the authors assume, most academics and students do not want to contribute to unnecessarily. By procuring different kinds of foods, universities could achieve reductions in many of these negative effects. By doing so, universities could even save money. They also might promote healthier diets among their students and personnel, especially if they emphasise the healthiest kinds of plant-based foods….
[… Read more at The Lancet]



How Campus Cafeterias Became Hotspots for Climate Action

Jack McGovan, Sentient Media, May 2, 2023

When Guherbar Gorgulu arrived to study at Erasmus University Rotterdam, she was surprised by the many plant-based options.

“In Turkey, you don’t really have a lot of vegan options,” she says, not to mention many people interested in talking about the impact of what they eat. “I really didn’t have a community of people who also cared about animal rights and the environment.”

That all changed when Gorgulu started attending weekly vegan cooking workshops hosted by the Erasmus Sustainability Hub — a student-led organization encouraging students to lead more sustainable lifestyles. Inspired to join the Hub as Food and Agriculture Manager, Gorgulu, along with her colleagues, have been active in fighting for climate action on campus. Initiatives include workshops, discussions and petitions to demand fully plant-based cafeterias.

The work seems to be paying off. In February, the university announced that they are aiming to make plant-based foods the norm on campus by 2030. The goal is part of the university’s climate commitments; animal agriculture is responsible for around 20 percent of global emissions, and is also a leading cause of habitat loss.

Change is happening beyond Rotterdam. A dozen universities across the U.S. joined an incubator program this year to provide more plant-based foods on their campuses, and across the UK, student unions in Cambridge, Stirling, Birmingham and London voted in support of vegan menus this academic year. In 2021, universities across the entire city of Berlin went predominantly meat-free….

[… Read more at Sentient Media]


Chefs from Ontario universities train to cater to student demands for plant-based foods

At Western in London, for instance, 40% of student residence menus will be plant based by January

Michelle Both, CBC NewsMay 4, 2023

That’s what chefs from Ontario universities did when they gathered at Western’s Saugeen-Maitland residence this week in London for a culinary training program aimed at ramping up plant-based choices at student residences.

Instead of the standard pulled pork, for instance, sandwiches with shreds of soy-ginger jackfruit — a tropical tree fruit that, if prepared just right, tastes like pulled pork — were among the menu offerings as the get-together wrapped up with a catered lunch.

Twenty-four chefs took part in Humane Society International’s Food Forward program, to explore and experiment with vegan cooking, on Tuesday and Wednesday. Other participating schools included the University of Guelph, University of Windsor and Hamilton’s McMaster University.

The food is getting rave reviews.

Glenn Dupont, a chef at Western’s Elgin Hall residence, said he was never a big fan of chickpeas, but that all changed when he made chickpea and walnut sliders during the training.

“I really would actually make this for myself and my family,” said Dupont, who typically sticks to meat and potatoes at home. “It tastes absolutely excellent.”…

[… Read more at CBC News]

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Vegan Ultra-Runner Wins Zion 100KM Desert Trail Race

Austin Meyer has been vegan for five years

Amy Buxton, PlantBased NewsApril 28, 2023

Vegan ultra-runner Austin Meyer took first place at the Zion Ultra 100km (62 mile) race on April 15, finishing in just over 10 hours (10:07:53).

The ultramarathon saw athletes racing around the Zion National Park in Utah, in the shadows of towering sandstone cliffs. Considered a difficult route, only experienced ultra-runners with a half-ultramarathon already under their belt were eligible to compete.

Meyer – a documentary filmmaker and photographer – completed the run with support from both his partner and coach. Upon finishing the race, he took to social media to thank event organizers, and express gratitude for the opportunity to learn more about himself during the run.

Ultra-running as a vegan

Discussing his five years as a vegan, Meyer notes that it is now fundamental to his training. Moreover, it plays a crucial part in everything he does before, during, and after a race.

“On the physical side, ultrarunning is a very demanding sport. Training becomes a cycle of physical stress and recovery, the quality of which are the variables that determine how much I can grow and improve as an athlete,” Meyer told Plant Based News.

“Eating a plant-based whole foods diet has allowed me to increase physical stress in training, and simultaneously, recover faster. This is due in part to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the food, which lead to reduced muscle damage.”

In recent years, the fitness and health benefits of plant-based nutrition have become more widely understood. If animal protein was once considered the only option for serious contenders, a slew of vegan athletes now challenge the misconception, many of whom seek to crush outmoded stereotypes….

[… Read more at PlantBased News ]


Plant-Based Protein Supports Building Muscle During Resistance Training

New Article in the Journal for Nutrition

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Feb. 27, 2023


Plant-based protein supports building muscle during resistance training as much as an omnivorous diet, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Young adults who followed a plant-based diet showed no significant differences in muscle volume, muscle strength, or muscle fiber size when compared to those who ate an omnivorous diet during training. A high-protein vegan diet is as effective for optimal skeletal muscle development during intense trainings as nonvegan diets.

Ref. Monteyne AJ, Coelho MO, Murton AJ, et al. Vegan and omnivorous high protein diets support comparable daily myofibrillar protein synthesis rates and skeletal muscle hypertrophy in young adults. J Nutr. 2023;S0022-3166(23)12680-0. doi:10.1016/j.tjnut.2023.02.023


Cambridge University students vote for completely vegan menus

Union will hold talks with catering services about removing all animal products from cafes and canteens

Nadeem Badshah, The Guardian, Feb. 21, 2023

Students at the University of Cambridge have voted to support a transition to a solely vegan menu across its catering services.

The Cambridge students’ union voted on Monday to hold talks about removing all animal products from its cafes and canteens with the university’s catering services….

William Smith, 24, from the Cambridge branch of the Plant-Based Universities campaign, said: “It’s great that Cambridge students’ union has passed our motion to work with the university to implement a just and sustainable plant-based catering system.

“By removing animal products from its menus, the university could significantly reduce its environmental impact and showcase to the world its commitment to sustainability….

[… Read more at The Guardian]


LinkedIn Headquarters Goes Mostly Plant-Based To Reduce Carbon Footprint

The move has proved popular with LinkedIn employees

Amy Buxton, Plant Based NewsJanuary 26, 2023

LinkedIn has converted the menu at its San Francisco headquarters to feature mostly plant-based options.

Working with its Sodexo-owned catering partner, Good Eating Company, the professional network platform subscribed to a food program designed by Greener by Default (GBD). GBD is a specialist company that assists organizations to move towards more sustainable food options. It does so by promoting plant-based menu choices.

This resulted in a 65 percent plant-based menu being brought in at LinkedIn. Simultaneously, cow’s milk has been replaced with oat alternatives as the default option.

Though meat dishes are still served, they are limited in number. The most carbon-intensive meats, including beef and lamb, are included in just one dish per week. It is hoped that diners will naturally favor climate-friendly meals as a result.

“When a corporate trendsetter like LinkedIn shows that people are happy to choose plant-based foods when they’re accessible and appealing, it’s a huge leap forward towards a more sustainable food culture,” Katie Cantrell, CEO of Greener by Default, told Plant Based News….

[… Read more at Plant Based News ]


Plant-Based Options On US College Campuses Are Increasing Exponentially

College students across the US will soon have more plant-based food to choose from

Amy Buxton, Plant Based NewsNovember 1, 2022

Aramark, the largest foodservice company in the US, has announced that it is committed to increasing the number of plant-based options on its college menus by 2025.

Working with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the catering giant will increase animal-free meal choices—so that they make up almost half (44 percent) of all offerings—across more than 250 educational institutions.

The two have worked together for more than a decade to improve food options in colleges and universities. HSUS has also previously collaborated with fellow educational food service provider Sodexo to facilitate a global shift towards plant-based consumption.

For Aramark, the HSUS partnership plays a major role in its company-wide environmental commitments. They are in place to create a 25 percent reduction in the carbon footprints of menus served by the provider in the US by 2030….

[… Read more at Plant Based News ]