Plant-based diet advocates inspire inclusive dining at ‘Berg

As the number of vegan customers increases across Muhlenberg College’s campus, students discuss whether their dietary needs are being properly met by the College.

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Wood Dining Commons. Photo by Assistant Photo Editor, Maddie Ciliento '25.

When many people hear ‘Muhlenberg College,’ they imagine the mouthwatering, award-winning dining hall renowned for its food its tenth-place ranking amongst American colleges. But on a campus known for its food, vegan advocates have been ramping up discussions about more vegan-friendly dining options. 

With a goal of converting 42 percent of planned menu options to plant-based by 2025, the Wood Dining Commons (WDC) has held specific training sessions for their dining staff. To prepare, the dining hall participated in a Humane Society of United States plant-based dinner known as the “spring awakening dinner” where they experimented with culinary vegan meals, including a Korean-style rice bowl and a chili garlic soba noodle bowl. The WDC hopes to launch these menu items at Chef’s Table next year. 

Recently, the WDC has made strides in collaboration with the Plant Based Advocates (PBA) to ensure a wider variety of vegan dining options. Club members meet biweekly with head chef Michael Brack to brainstorm and create delicious, vegan dishes. 

“We are always seeking the best plant-based solutions for vegans and others who wish to reduce consumption of animal products and create great tasting, innovative foods,” Brack states. “Savory foods are also not the only area where we’ve put a focus on vegan offerings. Our pastry chef, Marie Holtz, specializes in vegan desserts.” 

“We are always seeking the best plant-based solutions for vegans and others who wish to reduce consumption of animal products and create great tasting, innovative foods.”

Michael Brack

Successful initiatives like these have inspired the dining hall to incorporate more vegan options into their new Simple Servings station, coming to the Wood Dining Commons in the fall. While there will always be an animal-based protein, Simple Servings will also offer vegetable and starch combinations, including ratatouille and lentil stew, butternut squash and quinoa cake, and vegetable tagine. All will be prepared without butter, therefore friendly for vegan customers. 

According to a recent “College Pulse” survey, nearly 14 percent of college students across America have adopted vegan or vegetarian diets. With this uptick in popularity, many Muhlenberg students, such as Deborah McDonald ‘26, are engaging in this lifestyle. “I started doing more research on the environmental aspects of veganism with decreasing [my] carbon footprint and when [I] learned how cruel the meat industry treats the animals,” McDonald says. “I no longer have any interest in supporting the meat industry nor will I ever go back. 

“When I first visited Muhlenberg, I was so excited that they offered and labeled all of the vegan options, it definitely factored into my decision,” McDonald says on behalf of her dining experience at Muhlenberg. “The chefs are very accommodating and don’t mind double checking to see if something is vegan.” 

McDonald, who currently serves as PBA’s secretary and looks forward to her presidential term this fall, has been adhering to a fully vegan diet for over two years and is excited to educate others about veganism across campus through PBA. When asked about the organization’s recent initiatives, she explains the addition of many new vegan options in the dining hall, including a chickpea salad wrap. Future organization goals are to incorporate more vegan options at the General Quarters,’ specifically at the grill. 

Other PBA members such as Alena Ruckh ‘25 echo McDonald’s comments. “It was so nice to find a community of people through [the organization] that share the same experience and interests as me. The dining hall is considerate and likes to poll people’s feedback [about vegan meals] which is appreciated, but some more consistency with vegan options would be amazing.” 

“Change only happens when we can all work together with common inclusive goals and collaborate with other clubs and organizations, inviting one another into important conversations.”

Lacey Pasco ’23

“Change only happens when we can all work together with common inclusive goals and collaborate with other clubs and organizations, inviting one another into important conversations,” PBA member Lacey Pasco ‘23 adds. The Plant Based Advocates are excited to continue inspiring change across campus starting with student dining, and look forward to welcoming Simple Servings and other inclusive food options to campus in the coming semesters. Wood Dining Commons customers are encouraged to fill out the provided feedback form, https:/dining.muhlenberg.edu/contact, to garner public opinion on dining initiatives at the College.

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