About 23% of 18-25 year olds follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, but most universities offer few plant-based food options, making it difficult for college-aged students to make sustainable and healthy choices. Today, catering giant Sodexo, which serves around 380 North American universities, announced it was adapting its food selection, starting with Liberty University in Virginia.
This semester, Sodexo is replacing Liberty’s South Street Cheesesteaks with an all-new vegan and gluten-free concept called The Hungry Herbivore. The plant-based restaurant is Sodexo’s first entirely vegetarian and gluten-free concept on a university campus. The new restaurant will provide Liberty students with an allergen-friendly option that completely reduces the risk of cross-contamination.
“Based on my nationwide research, there are few restaurants that focus solely on gluten-free and plant-based, because that’s extremely difficult to do,” District Manager Sarah Falls told Food management. “We are always striving to deliver innovative concepts from Liberty University.”
Hungry Herbivore’s menu includes fudgy hash browns, nachos, meatball marinara bowls, vegan burgers and more. Although it offers some dairy cheese options, the Hungry Herbivore allows all customers to swap it out for a vegan alternative.
“Many gluten-free students have said they haven’t been able to use their meal plans like everyone else, even with our strong Gluten Intolerant Options (GIO) program,” said Duke Davis, director of the Liberty district. “We heard the same thing from vegan and vegetarian students. It was a tough decision as many students loved the cheesesteak concept, but we felt a greater demand to provide more food options for students with dietary restrictions.
Colleges go for plants
Sodexo currently provides catering services to over 1,000 colleges and universities worldwide. With increased demand for plant-based options, the restaurant giant aims to restructure its menus to cater to the growing plant-based population. Last April, the company announced plans to increase plant-based meal offerings by 42% by 2025. Sodexo is partnering with the Humane Society of the United States to ensure its new menu helps reduce its carbon footprint.
Working with colleges nationwide, Sodexo aims to reduce its carbon emissions by 34% by 2025. The company has discovered that 70% of its carbon footprint is associated with its food products. animal origin. By introducing new plant-based offerings, the company hopes to move away from its current meat-heavy menus across the United States.
Last August, Sodexo partnered with Israeli food tech company SavorEat to help bring its new plant-based vending robot to market. The tech company unveiled a vegan burger-serving robot last year, with plans to launch the plant-based mobile vending machine in US colleges in 2022. Using 3D printing technology, the company is preparing burgers with plant-based ingredients.
School systems are introducing vegan meal programs
In May, Illinois Public Schools unveiled a plan to serve vegan meals to two million students. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker has signed a new bill requiring plant-based school lunches to be served statewide. The new law will come into effect on August 1, 2023, ensuring that all students have the opportunity to choose plant-based dishes in their school cafeterias.
Similarly, the New York public school system launched its “Vegan Fridays” program, providing one million students with free plant-based meals. Aimed at teaching kids to eat healthier, the new plant-based program provides students with access to vegan foods they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
For more plant-based events, check out The Beet’s News articles.
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