Colleges Nine and Ten hosted a Meatless Monday event during lunch last week. The event was geared toward promoting vegan- and vegetarian-friendly options in campus dining halls to reduce their carbon footprint. Photo by Andrew Allio.

Omnivorous students at College 9/10 Dining Hall took a break from their meat-eating habits while vegetarian and vegan students took the spotlight last Monday. During a special Meatless Monday lunchtime outreach event in the dining hall, representatives from Banana Slugs for Animals, Students for Organic Solutions, and Morningstar Farms greeted lunching students with decorated booths adorned with a wide array of pamphlets, prizes and samples.

The event was originally planned with the intention of promoting awareness about UC Santa Cruz’s nomination for the 2010 Most Vegan-Friendly College competition by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). UCSC took fourth place last year.

However, UCLA beat UCSC in the first round of voting this year, eliminating the Slugs from the competition.

Gaining a higher rank in the PETA competition would have just been dairy-free icing on the vegan cake, but the loss did not affect the event. Volunteers encouraged the students who stopped by the booths to pledge to go meatless for a meal, a day, a week or a month. Students wrote their names and e-mail addresses on Post-it notes and stuck them to posters in their respective pledge category.

One of these volunteers, second-year Tash Nguyen, tabled for the group Students for Organic Solutions at the event. As the student coordinator for SOS, Nguyen tries to bring positive attention to Meatless Mondays.

“We hope that all the vegetarians and vegans who have meal plans become aware of Meatless Mondays and take advantage of these days,” Nguyen said. “Our job is to advocate these events. We want to get more people interested in trying vegetarian and vegan options.”

Second-year Virginia Hanrahan, who is vegan and a representative of Banana Slugs for Animals, said that Meatless Mondays and the reduction of meat consumption on campus are not only about moral issues but environmental concerns as well.

“We’re showing students all the alternatives that are out there,” Hanrahan said. “There is a big environmental push for people eating less meat.”

There is a significant link between the production of meat and “environmental destruction,” according to March 2006 reports by the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Chicago and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Opponents of Meatless Mondays have said that removing the choice of meat imposes on students’ dietary freedom. Following the institution of Meatless Monday programs in several public schools throughout the country, public figures such as Janet Riley, American Meat Institute (AMI) senior vice president for public relations, condemned Meatless Mondays as a denial of student rights.

Diners as well as employees of the dining halls have shown support of Meatless Mondays.

Vegan second-year Melanie Kaplan is a food service supervisor and student manager at the Crown/Merrill Dining Hall. She started working with the dining service and was initially troubled by a lack of signs in the dining halls. She said she was disheartened by the lack of options for vegetarians and vegans.

“I was able to see a wide range of products that [the dining halls] have and help get healthier options out for other people who are concerned about what they’re eating,” Kaplan said. “I’m also making sure things are labeled properly with what’s in it, so that nobody eats something that they realize they didn’t want to be eating. I feel like [the dining halls] have gotten extremely better with that and are constantly improving.”

UCSC students were not the only ones involved in the event. Morningstar Farms’ Gardenburger representative, Katie Goetzinger, attended the event to promote vegan and vegetarian dining options. Morningstar Farms is a division of Kellogg Company.

The student volunteers were excited to receive support from a major corporation like Kellogg. Goetzinger said that Kellogg’s involvement in the movement is mostly a reaction to the growing interest in vegetarianism and veganism.

“Working for a major corporation, it is necessary to promote vegetarian options. It’s not like you have a choice if you want to grow as a company,” Goetzinger said. “My company is one of the largest in the world, and we’re able to set ourselves in the vegan and vegetarian category. It is the largest growing category in food services in terms of colleges, military and other places with cafeteria-type settings.”

Supporters of Meatless Mondays said increasing the amount of unprocessed foods offered in the dining halls will make the campus more sustainable.

“The goal is to get to 20 percent real food in the dining halls to lessen the carbon footprint,” Nguyen said. “[Meatless Mondays are] one push to get there. I think we’ve already almost accomplished it, and we hope to go above and beyond it.”