SOU Leading Way in Plant Based Diet



In early February, SOU students asked for more plant-based meal options, as noted by our article in The Siskiyou. The dining halls on campus took note.  “We listened. We heard. We knew that we needed a station just for this,” said Nathan Diogo, the residential food director of the Hawk. “We have the freedom in this type of facility to where we can make those changes. It’s coming to light that if we did make those changes then it would succeed,” said Diogo.

Employees at the Hawk have been discussing the need for more vegan and vegetarian options, learning that A’viands does supply a vegan and vegetarian brand called Vegé.  A’viands, the Minnesota-based corporation that provides dining services for SOU, is currently working with SOU chefs to promote and develop a Vegé station in the Hawk, set to open the first day of spring term. Here students can look forward to an entire station dedicated to vegan and vegetarian meals already offered at the Hawk as well as brand new hot entrees and specialty items.  “We make every attempt to listen to the students, faculty, and guests and adjust our services accordingly,” assured Diogo, explaining that for the building of the Vegé station the Hawk will reconstruct the area, train their staff to learn about the specially ordered vegan/vegetarian items, and revamp signage and marketing.

“The duration of Vegé will depend on the voice of the people. If they like it and it’s going well, then it’ll stay. If it’s not succeeding and we’ve tried and tried and tried different items, then we can look at other options,” said Diogo. In order to boost popularity, A’viands and the Hawk are seeking to promote plant-based options that often go unnoticed. SOU graduate, Kylee Rohrbacker, filled a vacant position for marketing coordinator this past January and will eventually alter menus and labeling for the new Vegé stand.

“This campus is different from all the other campuses A’viands operates, “ says Rohrbacker, “Most of the other campuses aren’t asking for vegan options. So we’re kind of a learning campus for the company. We’re so diverse, and we’re also the biggest higher education campus they have.”

Meanwhile at Elmo’s in the SU, executive chef Gerard Gander is proud to announce healthier alternatives. Last week he tabled a new vegan lemon poppy seed dressing that he paired with organic rainbow Swiss chard. Sandwiches in the Good-to-Go section are now made with two types of vegan bread. And in his strides to offer as much organic, locally grown produce as possible, Gander plans on stocking Elmo’s with a variety of fresh fruits and veggies grown by students at SOU’s Center for Sustainability.

Aside from the vegan bread, Gander admits that there haven’t been many drastic changes at Elmo’s. However, Gander hopes to make known his willingness to accommodate every student’s dietary request. Although he has never undertaken a vegan diet, Gander once challenged himself to create a 30-day vegan meal plan after he first encountered a frustrated vegan in the Cascade dining hall.

Gander says he is the type of chef that will bend over backwards for students: “If somebody comes in and wants a vegan sandwich with these four specific things on it, I’ll absolutely stop what I’m doing and make that sandwich in the back of the kitchen for them,” he says.

Staff at the Hawk and Elmo’s keep their doors open and invite students to speak with them directly about any suggestions or comments regarding their dining experiences. Students can also attend student-run food service committee meetings every other Friday at 11 A.M. at the Hawk.