The Brooks Dining Hall at the University of Southern Maine recently underwent a $2.5 million renovation to make room for vegan meal options. The renovated dining hall features flexible food stations that change depending on the time of day or the menu, and now include vegan dishes such as kale and farro breakfast bowls, jackfruit carnitas sandwiches with jicama slaw, and chocolate peanut butter brownies. For breakfast, students can get made-to-order smoothies with non-dairy milk or vegan protein powder. At the pasta, stir-fry, and pizza stations, students can add beans, grilled tofu, marinated tempeh, falafel, or jackfruit to their custom-made dishes. The deli station also stocks vegan cheese and meat, and the salad bar has a dedicated vegan section. “We’re trying as much as possible to keep items separate,” Tadd Stone, general manager of food service provider Sodexo, told media outlet Portland Press Herald. “Meat options are kept on one side and vegan options on the other side.” The update follows complaints from vegan students, who said the cost of the campus’ meal plan was not worth it given the lack of vegan options and cross-contamination. Now, vegetables are steamed instead of cooked with butter, and the grill station has color-coded frying pans for vegan meals (green pans) and allergen-free meals (purple pans). Many of the new vegan dishes on the dining hall’s menu came from the Humane Society of the United States’ Food Forward program, which offers free plant-based culinary training sessions and support to food service providers and businesses.
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