Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Veganism at Penn

There is a movement sweeping Penn’s campus called Veganism. Some conceive veganism as synonymous with the concept “strict vegetarian,” as such a diet is devoid of animal products—meat, seafood, dairy and honey.

Most are daunted by the prospect of eliminating not only meat, but also seafood and dairy from their lifestyle. Adapting a vegan diet offers health benefits like decreasing the risk of developing cancer, diabetes and related illnesses.  For College junior Yessi Gutierrez, who penned the opinion column addressing veganism published in The Daily Pennsylvanian in November 2012, ethical reasons fortified her decision to become vegan. She said, “I don’t agree with core tenets of our food production system, from the amount of resources meat production utilizes (for example, larger amounts of water and crops for animal maintenance), to the widespread use of antibiotics administered to livestock, which have human health impacts, but especially the amount of cruelty animals are subjected to on their way to our dinner plates.”

Veganism reaps more than just environmental and physical bonuses. Caitlin Baiduc, graduate student and staff advisor of Penn Vegan Society, notes that a true vegan lifestyle consists of more than mere dietary adjustments. Baiduc said, “It’s as much a mindset and way of understanding the world—and mankind’s place in it—as it is a series of lifestyle choices.” She continued, “How can we live more peaceably amongst ourselves and with other species? How can we go beyond an anthropocentric viewpoint and break down species-barriers?”

Still, there exist misconceptions regarding vegans, such as protein malnutrition, manic animal activism and sustenance on solely green vegetables. On campus, Penn Dining has progressively accommodated for the increasing vegan presence. Kings Court provides an entirely vegan pizza at every meal, while Hill also offers varied lunch and dinner options for differing dietary styles. Most notably, 1920 Commons features a “vegan bar” with hummus, quinoa and other whole grain-based options. Shawn Kelley, Dining Liason for Penn Vegan Society, noted that as a member on the Dining Advisory Board, he maintains relations with the chefs of Bon Appetit. While Penn did not have a consistent vegan menu since Spring 2010, Kelley forebodes greater changes for vegans: “I have already seen [resolutions for] some of the issues we have brought up… and there are many more issues we are currently working on, including more brunch and dessert options, as well as a greater variety in the meals offered at the dining halls.”

There are many off-campus budget-friendly and vegan restaurants: Vedge, Hip City Veg (try their award-winning Arugula Taco Salad, according to Baiduc) and Soy Café in Northern Liberties for a cozy hangout. Closer to home, Chipotle offers a veggie bowl, though Gutierrez recommends vegan chaat and lassi from Mood Café on Baltimore Street. For a “life-changing” sandwich, the Smoked Tofu Cubano from Blackbird Pizzeria is another all-time favorite. Check out this extensive list of vegan dining options in close proximity to Penn’s campus here.

For current and budding vegans, the quickest way to make a near seamless lifestyle transition is to find fellow vegans in Penn Vegan Society (PVS). Senior and co-president Laura MacKinnon said, “It is a great resource both as a way of meeting other people who share the lifestyle and as a force for activism.” Most notably, PVS offers a Vegan Mentor Program that matches people who want to try veganism with an experienced vegan mentor.

The term “vegan” innately can make one squeamish, but the advantages certainly outweigh all qualms. As Gutierrez said, “We do it because we believe that our collective food choices can make a difference. We’ve already seen vegetarianism become more mainstream and readily (and cheaply) available.” She concluded, “I’m just waiting for veganism to hit that point.”