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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Accommodating dietary restrictions at events proves difficult


In any given week at Grinnell, hungry students need not look further than the halls of JRC to find an opportunity to score a free snack or meal. Whether it be at a club meeting, campaign event or even a party at Harris, food abounds on campus. 

However, students have expressed their frustration at the lack of inclusivity in food options at such events, especially when those events have been advertised as having options for those with dietary restrictions.

On Saturday, Oct. 4, an event hosted by the Class of 2022 ambassadors, which was publicized as having vegan and gluten-free options, did not provide them due to a misunderstanding about differences in the vendor’s restaurant and food truck menus. 

The next day, the same situation occurred at a barbecue hosted by Clangrala Residence Life staff. Emails and posters for the event stated that there would be vegan and gluten-free options, but many vegan residents were disappointed to discover that the non-meat burger option was only vegetarian and not, in fact, vegan.

“[The difficulties of being vegan are] something that I think about pretty often, especially when it comes to events … some events are like, ‘Oh, don’t eat lunch because we’re going to have food!’, and then you get all hyped up and then you go there and then there’s nothing to eat … It’s just very awkward and uncomfortable sometimes,” said Luz Alfaro ’22, a vegan student and peer educator.

Alfaro has attended many events, including a retreat for Multicultural Leadership Council, where there was nothing for her to eat due to her dietary restrictions not being accommodated.

In an attempt to mitigate this issue, all students who receive funding from Student Government Association (SGA) to host events that serve food are required to provide both a vegan and gluten-free option.

All Campus Events Coordinator Amelia Zoernig ’21 revises and approves itemized budgets for all events requesting funding for food from SGA based on their accessibility to students with dietary restrictions. “We are limited in our options … Pizza Ranch is a really good option because they have a very clear, easy way to do a vegan and gluten-free option … Some of our other options in town are [more] limited.” said Zoernig. 

She added that students who don’t provide the accessible options included in their budget may not be reimbursed for the costs.

For events not funded by SGA, food options are generally left to the organizers’ discretion.

Alfaro pointed out that off campus, the main vegan dining options are Relish and Prairie Canary, which are at an inaccessible price point for many vegan students.

This lack of vegan options leads to a dependence on the Dining Hall and, therefore, the financial burden that comes with needing a more extensive meal plan, said Alfaro.

“Usually people are like, ‘Oh, you didn’t tell me you were vegan, so we didn’t get any vegan options!’ Well, if I’m announcing [I’m vegan] everywhere, then people are gonna think that I’m one of those … ‘I’m better than you guys, I’m vegan, and I’m gonna tell everyone that I am.’ So it’s just like a paradox like, should I [say I’m vegan] or should I not?” she said.

There are no concrete numbers as to how many students at Grinnell adhere to vegan diets, but, Chris King ’22, co-leader of student group Grinnell Vegans, said he felt the number of vegans at Grinnell is increasing.

“I feel like [veganism] has a shit ton of momentum. … Environmental activism is also starting to like, push a little bit more on [reducing] meat consumption because animal agriculture is terrible for the environment. And I think ethically people’s perspectives on animals are changing fully as well. So, I think it has a huge amount of influence.” said King.

Grinnell Vegans, formerly known as Grinnell Intersectional Vegans, is organized by King as well as Ellyonna Glenn ’22 and Sophia Doddimeade ’21. 

The group is still in its formative stages, but plans to host vegan potlucks, push for more vegan options both on campus and in town and advocate for the broader adoption of plant-based diets.

“I think [event organizers] just need to be a little bit more careful because I don’t think anybody does it with bad intentions. … It’s like an afterthought, but it’s an afterthought that ends up making the event not accessible to a large group of people at the school,” said King.

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