University of Maryland Dining Services released new vegan specials available at all three dining halls this semester in an effort to expand options for both vegan and non-vegan students.
"We heard from students that they'd like to see more [options], and that they'd love to see the vegan options included in some of the pop-up specials that I think students really look forward to," said Allison Tjaden, Dining Services assistant director for new initiatives. "Especially when you get to the middle or end of the semester, I know that students are always looking for something a little bit different."
The lack of more vegan options has been a problem for students like freshman biology major Karli Lawrence, who is vegetarian.
"I can usually find stuff to eat, but there isn't much variety in it, so I basically have the same meal on most days," Lawrence said. "That's my only complaint — I get really bored of what there is [to eat]."
The new vegan specials have been in active development since the fall, and will be routinely evaluated throughout this semester, Dining Services spokesman Bart Hipple said. Every day, the specials will be reviewed by Dining Services based on a variety of factors such as cost, supply of food, preparation time and student satisfaction.
"Sometimes you run a special and it's very popular, but by the third time you're running it, no one wants it," said Hipple. "Sometimes you run a special and nobody knows what it is exactly, but by the end of six or seven weeks, people want it."
The selection of vegan specials for this week, which will be available at the designated vegan stations of each dining hall, includes grilled vegan reubens, build-your-own vegetable bowls and vegan barbecue. These specials are also available in non-vegan options, but some of the non-vegan specials — such as this week's chicken tenders and tortellini and ravioli — don't have vegan counterparts.
Freshman Pooja Swaminathan, a nutritional science major and vegetarian, said she was pleased to see the addition of vegan specials to the dining halls and that the food is better than she expected.
"I think [the specials are] a great idea," Swaminathan said. "I notice that veganism is a very popular diet choice for a lot of people nowadays, so I think it's a good idea to incorporate something for everyone to eat at the diner."
Hipple said there most likely won't be other major changes to dining hall specials for the duration of the semester, as significant dining menu changes are typically enacted between semesters.
"In between semesters we take a breath, really consolidate what we know and see what the trend is, what else might be out there that we're not running as a special, and then we start up again," said Hipple.
Sophomore linguistics major Macie McKitrick said she tried the grilled vegan reuben special for the first time Tuesday at the South Campus Dining Hall.
"I think [the reuben] tastes really good," McKitrick said. "It's sort of like something you would get at a vegan restaurant, and not so much what I would think of at a school cafeteria."