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Colleges Responding to Needs of Vegetarian Students


NEW YORK — Vegetarian students considering colleges have to look at more than just the course catalog.

At some schools, they could end up surviving on salad bars and peanut butter, while at others, entire dining rooms are devoted to vegetarian food.

"Food service directors are really working hard in meeting each segment of the student population's expectations," said Clark Dehaven of the National Assn. of College and University Food Service in East Lansing, Mich.

Vegetarian eating has grown slowly but steadily over the past decade in colleges, Dehaven said.

An estimated 8 million to 9 million Americans are vegetarians.

The Marriott Corp., which provides food for about 400 colleges, offers at least one vegetarian entree at lunch and dinner in addition to salad bars and yogurts, spokeswoman Kathy Boyle said. The company had about a dozen vegetarian recipes in its menu rotation 15 years ago, and now has about 50, including carrot loaf with pea sauce, curried vegetables with beans and sunflower seeds, and vegetable quiche, she said.

"I think it's a matter of taking the time and investing the time in the students and developing a program," said Paul Tuennerman, director of dining services for Morrison Custom Management, which provides the food at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

"A year and a half ago, I thought a vegetarian entree was rice with cheese on it," he said.

Then Tuennerman began meeting with vegetarian students, reading books and testing recipes. Now the school serves such dishes as tofu Oriental salad, carrot loaf, eggplant con queso, and Moroccan stew with yams, raisins, carrots and other vegetables.

There are two vegetarian choices at every meal, one of them vegan, meaning no animal products of any kind. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat no flesh but do eat eggs and dairy products.

At Oberlin College's lacto-ovo "veggie dining hall," there also is a vegan option for lunches and every other dinner, said dietitian Rebecca Stotter.

"We're finding more students are wanting strict vegan entrees. Health reasons, possibly ethical reasons too," Stotter said.

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