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Engineering freshman Anvi Dalal is spreading around a petition for Penn Dining to offer more vegan and vegetarian options, citing a current lack.

Credit: Idil Demirdag

Penn Dining does not offer enough vegetarian and vegan options, according to a petition posted in the University of Pennsylvania Class of 2019 Facebook page last month by Engineering freshman Anvi Dalal.

The form, which asked freshmen to describe the “problems they face at Penn dining" — specifically when trying to eat vegan or vegetarian food — sparked a discussion on whether Penn Dining is receptive enough to students with dietary restrictions and even whether a dining plan made sense for vegetarian and vegan students.

“There are very few options for vegetarians at Penn,” Dalal said. “I’m from India, and I’ve grown up as a vegetarian my whole life. It’s been quite a problem ever since I came here. If you’re a vegetarian there’s really just pizza, and I’m really tired of eating that because it’s not even that good of pizza. I finished last semester with around 120 meal swipes left.”

Dalal is hoping to send her petition to Penn Dining sometime soon.

While her petition received around 50 signatures, Daniel Connolly, a resident registered dietitian for Bon Appétit, insisted that, along with Penn Dining, Bon Appétit does everything it can to make sure every student can find something they like.

“While chefs get a lot of leeway with what they are cooking, Bon Appétit enforces strict guidelines to make sure there are vegetarian and vegan options at every meal,” Connolly said. “I suggest students go online and take a look at what each of the dining halls are serving in terms of vegetarian and vegan options before each meal. There is really a lot to choose from. Looking at the menu, I can see lots of different vegetarian and vegan substitutes for almost anything you want to eat.”

Students who have problems with their dining experience are encouraged to reach out to Bon Appétit directly through the Penn Dining website.

Engineering freshman Jake Welde argued that dining halls should do more than just make a salad bar and call it vegan. “It’s impossible to eat a protein-rich diet,” he said. “A lot of times the website will show some good vegan or vegetarian options, but then when you get there all they have is carbs. If you’re going to require freshman to have an extremely expensive dining plan, it should fit everyone’s needs.”

College junior Brianna Krejci, the chair of the Dining Advisory Board as well as co-president of Penn Vegan Society, agreed that Penn Dining could do a better job accommodating vegetarian and vegan students, but she said they do a good job considering how many students they are expected to feed. 

“For the most part I think they definitely try to make options for everyone, which is great,” she said. “But they could always do more. A lot of times the chefs will put animal products in things that don’t need it, like putting butter on vegetables or marinating them in chicken stock. This could be fixed very easily, and it prevents a large percentage of the university from being able to eat there.”

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