By Emma Giebel, Vegetarian Resource Group Intern

On a chilly Friday morning, my co-intern Taylor and I set up a table at the entrance to the most popular dining hall at Loyola University Maryland, Boulder Garden Café. Our table was covered in books and pamphlets filled with information about the benefits of veganism, facts that we wish were common knowledge. The dining service at our school played a huge part in our day by providing us with samples of a vegan burger that they are considering introducing into the daily menu of Boulder Garden Café. As we sat there for nearly 3 hours, we witnessed a spectrum of reactions to our presence. Whenever we would ask a group of students if they would like to try a vegan burger, we were given a reaction of shock and doubt. The common facial expression was one of “There is no way that could be good.”

The first positive reactions were given by vegans and vegetarians, who were thrilled at seeing not only the free food, but also the information we were giving out. Many said that the burger was better than any veggie burger they had ever had, and that introducing it into the daily menu would be a game-changer. Many people were curious and decided to try it out, and they were delightfully surprised at how delicious they were. With no gluten, no soy, and 20 grams of protein, they appealed to different audiences. As someone who has only been a vegetarian for less than a year, a good veggie burger that was high in protein was something that I have been seeking. The best reactions were from the men at Loyola who I normally see lifting the heaviest weights at our gym. Many people who are involved in fitness, especially weightlifting, falsely claim that you cannot get any protein from a vegan diet. It was genuinely funny to see these men come back for seconds! Their initial doubt was immediately retracted after the first bite.

The experience was incredibly informative for both myself and those that visited the booth. It was important for me to see what non-vegans/vegetarians thought of a meat substitute like the vegan burger, because small changes like that can have a massive change down the line. The best thing for the planet would be for everyone to not eat meat, but that may not happen for a while. When meat-eaters make small changes to decrease their intake, options like what we provided are an amazing start. After they realized they liked the veggie burger, many students asked us about more information, which is where the literature we brought with us came in handy. I hope that everyone who visited our table learned something, even if that was only that there are vegan options for classic American foods. If one person makes the decision to eat less meat, then I know that it was worth our while.

For information about The Vegetarian Resource Group internships, see https://www.vrg.org/student/index.php

For more ideas on campus outreach see https://www.vrg.org/teen/#activism

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