Student demand for vegan food choices has led the University of Waterloo, Ontario, to almost completely veganize a campus restaurant called Frsh.
Noting the increasing requests for plant-based options, Gordon Cooledge, the executive chef for UW Food Services, decided to “make a place that’s dedicated only to vegan and vegetarian so that it’s always reliable, they know that they can go there and get it any time.”
Resolving to revamp Frsh, a preexisting eatery that served animal-based dishes, the new menu took roughly a year to perfect. Based around three basic items – flatbreads, salad bowls and hot bowls – the menu enables students to customize meals, adding vegan protein such as pulled jackfruit, smoked tofu, and candied tempeh “bacon.” Vegan cheddar, mozzarella, and smoked Gouda cheeses and sauces can also be added to top-off dishes.
Although not open long, the revamped eatery is already popular. Cooledge told The Record that since the restaurant’s re-opening, his inbox is “always full with great comments.” The plant-based initiative is also supported by the university’s sustainability office. “We’ve looked at lots of research and the data behind it, and the environmental impacts of a plant-based diet — versus a meat-based diet — are far better,” explained UW’s sustainability manager, Mat Thijssen. He noted how environmental concerns have focused on transportation or energy systems, largely omitting to acknowledge the “significant” impact of animal agriculture.
However, he offers a positive solution, suggesting that simply reducing animal-product consumption can make a difference. Acknowledging that transitioning to vegan can be a process for some people – and not an immediate change – he encouraged, “even cutting out one [meat-based] meal a week or two meals a week can have an impact… It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.”
Indeed, in the U.S., over 80 percent of meat-eating students at the University of North Texas are choosing to regularly dine at the vegan dining hall. This echoes the results of a recent survey conducted by Aramark, a leading food service provider. According to the company, 79 percent of members of Generation Z – people born in the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s – are interested in eating meatless at least once a week.
Frsh can be found in B.C. Matthews Hall just off Columbia Street.
Image credit: University of Waterloo
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