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Vegan comp inspires changes in dining service

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More than fifty-six percent of the students completed the week-long vegan challenge. Senior Braxton Rose created the event wit te help of Parkhurst Dining as part of his senior comprehensive project.

Rose said that for the week of his study, vegan options were made readily available each day to accommodatte the 48 participants at both Brooks and McKinley’s Food Court.

Scott Steiner, Director of Operations, said that there wasn’t necessarily more food than usual, but that tey modified current recipes and stations to aid Rose’s effort.

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“We didn’t really add any additional things,” he said. “I think if we had done that, there would have been an expectation following the experiment. We didn’t really want to go there so we tried to maintain the amount of offerings but customized a few more to vegan or vegetarian.”

Steiner and Rose both noted that some vegan options had always been available at Brooks and McKinley’s, but that they just weren’t explicitly labeled as such before the comp.

Kyle Adams, ’13, participated in the study to support Rose, who is one of his fraternity brothers. As a man who ate some form of meat at least once a day prior to the seven-day challenge, Adams said that he noticed vegetarian options on campus but never anything vegan specific.

“Now I see vegan everyday,” he said. “After trying it, I’m more aware, I’m more conscious of, ‘does it say vegan on it?’ You see vegan over to the left and side [of Brooks]. They’re definitely working with it.

Since sophomore Dani Hicks has been vegan for the past nine months, she was unable to participate in the challenge, but she did notice the increased variety at Brooks for the week of Rose’s comp.

“I didn’t realize someone might have walked in before not realizing that something was vegan or vegetarian but through his marketing we identified some more things,” Steiner said. “We really didn’t know how much we needed to do that, and this was an eye-opener for us.”

Rose said that he gave Parkhurst several ideas for vegan breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts. His suggested recipe for a vegan chocolate cake was featured on the study’s first experimental day.

“It’s so good, it’s better than the regular chocolate cake they have and it’s less filling,” he said.

Steiner said that he believes more people experimented with the vegan options than had signed up to participate in the comp. He was one of them.

“I know that I found some things I like too,” he said. “Like the cookies… We’ve done no bakes and some brownies as well that I have sampled and they’ve all been really good.”

Steiner said that students more readily tried the vegan desserts because they were more identifiable to a traditional diet.

We really didn’t know what direction to take and his comp really supported that and gave a lot of opportunity for non-vegan and vegetarians to try those items,” he said.

Rose said that his study was the first of its kind in terms of the time period. Cultural icon Oprah Winfrey and her staff also underwent a seven-day vegan challenge, though they examined physiological effects such as decreased blood pressure. Rose said that he received feedback from some participants who had lost weight during the course of the week, but he was strictly evaluating pyschological effects.

“All the people that finished the diet had significant decreases in depression, anxiety, tension, hostility, anger, their overall mood,” he said.

The results were based on questionnaires that gave one, qualitative score on overall modd disturbance for each participant. When compared to participants that didn’t finish, results decreased to where there was no change in mood disturbances at all.

“So of course, I can’t really say 100 percent that that’s because of the diet, but it’s pretty cool to see that as a change over time,” he said.

Rose also said that he wasn’t aware of any participants that converted to veganism after completing his comp, but that some did change their dieting habits.

“I definitely changed my habits,” Adams said. “I learned to love fruit, like apples and bananas. I cut out a lot of the gross meats, like I don’t eat that much chicken anymore, especially fried… It’s pretty rare for me to eat meat for every meal anymore.”

Steiner said that since he’s been at Allegheny, it has always been a challenge to meet vegan dietary needs.

“I think this year has been the biggest strive for them for that effort. A vegan comp, I mean that made a huge impact on the awareness and I think that we learned something from it, as a team,” he said. “And it’s a footprint for the future with our program as more people are coming into our college with that intent. I think we’re going to learn a lot more and implement a lot more over time.”

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