Transitioning to a college dining plan already limits food options compared to living at home. Vegan students — who don’t eat any animal products — are limited even further. Now  Cal Poly is introducing  a new meat substitution option at its dining locations.

This new option, called VFC, stands for vegan fried chicken and came to campus late November. 

“It’s a great option for students that can’t eat meat. It has real meat texture, taste and look. We are also looking into other companies and products that can bring amazing products and variety to the campus that are affordable as well,” Campus Dining Director Jess Dozier said.

Cal Poly has recently  opened other options for students with dietary restrictions, which include the all vegan and vegetarian Health Shack and a vegetarian food truck, Plant Ivy. 

“During fall quarter we asked students to go through all our menus and provide suggestions for improvements,” Dozier said. “We have implemented most if not all of their suggestions and gave us great insight on improving the vegan offerings.”

Originally, child development freshman Eleanor Greene was vegetarian because of her support of animal rights and because her father was vegetarian, but after attending Cal Poly she switched to veganism.  

“I became vegan when I came to Cal Poly because most of the vegetarian options here are also vegan,” Greene said. 

Greene said she approved of the recent changes in meal options Campus Dining has made.

“I heard about VFC, Health Shack and Plant Ivy and I really like how Cal Poly has been trying to help vegan students like me feel valued,” Greene said. 

Aside from an animal rights standpoint, some choose to become vegan because of health issues and need to make that transition. 

“I have been having health issues and I got tested to see what was going on and I figured out I need to become vegan and gluten free. This was two months ago,” graphic design freshman Emma LoNardo said. 

Campus Dining says it listens to students’ needs and is open to student feedback. 

“I do my best to be an advocate for ​students with various dietary considerations, including vegan or vegetarian diets,” Campus Dining dietician Kelsey McCourt said. “I along with other members of the Campus Dining management team have met with a large quantity of students this year, many of which follow vegetarian or vegan diets. During these meetings we listen to their feedback, hear their requests, and adapt our menus as needed.”

Before the new additions to campus, options for students with diet limitations were scarce, especially with the closure of The Avenue and 805 Kitchen this year. 

“I usually just go to Balance at Vista Grande but there are only a couple options on the menu,” LoNardo said. “Other than that it is just Red Radish which is closed on the weekends and Shake Smart. That was it.” 

Greene explains how some days are more difficult than others to maintain a vegan diet. “I definitely think Cal Poly has been trying to provide vegan and vegetarian options,” Greene said. 

Being both vegan and gluten free has led LoNardo to face difficulties. “Even when I order the gluten free bread it has egg in it so that isn’t vegan,” she said. 

Cal Poly offers a nutrition calculator online that shows the ingredients of menu items and allergen information. However, it is not updated when the menu’s change at Vista Grande and students would like that to change. 

“I have to go out of my way a lot to figure out what is accessible to me,” LoNardo said. “Since it is not updated it does zero help. To figure out if I can eat a meal or not I have to email someone, but I feel that I shouldn’t have to ask.”

Campus Dining says it is continuously trying to better the food options provided for students. 

“We are constantly looking for new ideas and foods to introduce. So, if you have thoughts, please share them through our Text n Tell program, surveys, listening sessions, forums or simply email. We love constructive feedback,” Dozier said. 

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