By Sydney Bucholtz
Assistant Features Editor
According to accounts from an article featured in Bon Apetit Management Company, an organization servicing more than 4,000 university students, there have been drastic increases in the amount of vegetarian and vegan students in colleges between the years of 2005-2006 and 2009-2010. The study reported a 50% increase in the number of vegetarian or vegan students in collegiate institutions across the United States. This information, along with the concerns of students frequenting the Economou Dining Hall, was reason enough for the decision to develop a new station in the dining hall with vegan and vegetarian options.
Walking into the dining hall, one can encounter a strong sense of familiarity, from the clammering of metal cooking utensils, to the unified sense of chatter, to the sizzling of a frier. Light is streaming over Christ the King Chapel and through the wall of windows straight ahead, and today, the line isn’t as bad as usual. Once you turn the corner and arrive at a semi-circular area, you can choose from the selection of stations, including the newly developed Pitchforks — an exclusively vegetarian and vegan station that is not exclusive to vegetarians and vegans.
“Yesterday was my first day,” Taralynn, the new cook, explained from across the counter of Pitchforks, the vegan station in the Canisius College Dining Hall. “From what I heard from students, there were some vegan options [before Pitchforks].” She continued, “They would do some stuff at other stations, but you would have to ask. Just some different things you had to think about for people that are vegan… like, sour cream, or whatever like that. They put [Pitchforks] in so vegetarians, or whoever wanted to come, wouldn’t have to wonder whether what was in the food was actually safe and good for them to eat.”
In addition to this planning, a student contributed some insight about an organizational aspect that was brought to mind while she visited Pitchforks. “I’m really happy that they don’t have the Market Carvery right next to the vegetarian section because that seems like poor planning to me,” she said. “So, I’m happy about that, and I’m happy people have options.”
And these options are vast. The menu this past Wednesday featured a sweet potato and bean patty with avocado, accompanied by a side of hummus. “I’ve eaten here, I don’t mind it,” Jerry, a student and dining hall regular, attesting that the beet hummus paired well with some vegetables offered. Pitchforks also sells vegan cupcakes daily, and upon noticing them, he added, “Some of the desserts are really good.”
Another student leaving the dining hall expressed his support. “I feel as though having Pitchforks at the dining hall for dinner is a very good idea,” he said. “Whenever I feel like it, they have those plant-based proteins available.”
The impact and motivation behind establishing this new station surpasses the students and permeates into those who work at Chartwell’s, the provider of dining services on campus. Von, who has been employed by the company for just over a month, expressed his thoughts about Pitchforks. “The students, you know? The students, they had a big say.” He also voiced the reasoning for the station’s establishment. “[They offered] some new directions to try to just get the plant life situation going on, with more and more healthy options for the students. This anthropology class, the whole class comes through. The whole class, they’re all vegans or plant-based. I enjoy making the students happy. That’s the most important.”