“Not bringing your own food is not an option for plant-based eaters at EUR”, says Gabi Helfert, “and that needs to change.” Helfert is Project Manager for Digital Marketing and Communications at RSM and initiator of the EURvegan community, a recently launched initiative of plant-based eaters that aims to get more sustainable and vegan dishes into the restaurants on campus.

Vegans differ from vegetarians in that in addition to abstaining from eating meat, they do not eat any animal products. The EURvegan community believes that more plant-based food at EUR will be appropriate for three reasons: (1) it is healthier than animal products, (2) it is more sustainable than animal products and (3) it is more ethical than animal products. “Did you know that a vegan in a hummer has a lower carbon footprint than a meat-eater on a bike if they travel the same distance?”, asks Helfert.

Food court

EUR recently announced that the contract with current caterer Albron will be terminated.  “We were very excited to hear that Albron will be replaced by a food court”, says Helfert, “the opportunity for EURvegan is now.” Erasmus Facilitair Bedrijf (EFB) will rent out space to multiple suppliers, who offer their food according to a market-based approach. EURvegan has been in contact with EFB regarding vegan options. “EFB does not want to get involved with the dishes the caterers offer. But we’re a university and we should care”, Helfert counters.

Food not labeled

Even if some dishes are vegan, restaurant visitors have no way of knowing because the food on campus is not labeled. Asking the restaurant staff is not of much help, since many of them don’t know what vegan food is, and animal ingredients, such as Parmesan cheese or gelatin, are often hidden in meals. A good first step would thus be to provide labels. “This is not only important for vegans”, Helfert points out, “but also for people with allergies, for instance to gluten, or for people who are lactose-intolerant.” 

Meeting international taste

It all comes down to the issue of availability. In the Netherlands, people grow up with a ham-and-cheese sandwich, which is reflected in the catering at campus. “Dutch students are therefore generally satisfied with the food offered, but many students from for instance India and China also would like to see more plant-based options”, says Helfert “If more and tastier plant-based dishes were made available, more students would eat them. After all, you don’t have to be a vegan to eat plant-based food.” In addition to proper labeling, EURvegan aims at getting at least one vegan dish on the menu per day.

Support from the President

According to their website, the ambition of EUR is “to be one of the most sustainable Dutch campuses.” EUR president Pauline van der Meer Mohr highly encourages EURvegan to raise questions about the food at campus. “The president said that she would be very supportive of vegan options on campus”, says Helfert, “and she encourages EFB to look into these options.”

More info about EURvegan can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/EURvegans. NdB