UNCA earns top grade for campus vegan food offerings

VEGGIE OPTIONS: Having locations of two local restaurants known for their vegan offerings — Rosetta's Kitchenette and Mela Eats — on campus was one factor that helped UNC Asheville win the top grade on peta2's 2015 Vegan Report Card.
VEGGIE OPTIONS: Having locations of two local restaurants known for their vegan offerings — Rosetta's Kitchenette and Mela Eats — on campus was one factor that helped UNC Asheville win the top grade on peta2's 2015 Vegan Report Card. Photo courtesy of Sarah Nowicki

For plant-eating coeds, Asheville is the place to be. So says peta2, at least.

The youth program for animal advocacy organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, peta2 recently gave UNC Asheville a grade of A on its 2015 Vegan Report Card — and a spot on its Dean’s List.

“We’ve been doing this for three years, and every year we send surveys to the 1,400 colleges that have dedicated dining programs,” says Kenneth Montville, assistant manager of college campaigns for PETA. “They fill out a survey of questions about their vegan dining experience at the school. We ask them to identify their offerings, then each question is weighted with a number of points, and the number of points determines a grade value.”

The Dean’s List is a new addition this year for schools that go above and beyond in their offerings, says Montville.

“I think it’s critical we offer as many choices as possible to provide a wide variety of nutritious food to our vegan diners,” says Laura Sexton, registered dietitian at UNCA. “I’ve visited other universities that offer only one vegan option in the dining hall, and that option may not necessarily be a healthy or balanced meal. Vegan dietary patterns must include a wide variety of nutrients in order for the individual to thrive.”

UNCA gets a checkmark from peta2 in all of the following categories: offers at least one vegan entrée at every meal; offers nondairy milk; labels vegan entrées; labels vegan desserts; includes a vegan member on its student advisory board; promotes vegan options; partners with students to distribute vegan food; participates in Meatless Mondays; and has an all-vegan dining facility.

“Our executive chef, Alex Williams, and his culinary team have taken the lead with increasing our plant-based options around campus over the past few years,” adds Sexton. “Alex has worked diligently to create menus that include a variety of grains, legumes and other plant proteins. We added a vegan section to our newly renovated dining hall last year, and we also offer vegan proteins like plant meat chorizo from local company No Evil Foods in entrees and at our made-to-order stations.”

The campus also houses branches of popular local eateries Rosetta’s Kitchen and Mela Indian Restaurant, both of which provide many vegan and vegetarian options.

As for student satisfaction, peta2’s website rates UNCA at 88 percent.

“Asheville has always been very good — it’s tended to be ahead of the curve,” says Montville.  Schools overall are getting better, he adds. “We’ve seen a 111 percent increase in the A’s and a 233 percent increase in the B’s. That’s a huge amount of growth, in large part because there are large food service providers who are making it their goals to increase vegan service options on campus.”

Chartwell’s — which works with UNCA — and Aramark are among those, he says.

The 2015 Vegan Report Card was released in October. The full list of schools and grades is available on peta2’s website.

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