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Campus Dining aims to accommodate student dietary needs with plant-based options

The Flexitarian Bar in Robinson Residential Resturant on Nov. 8.

Central Michigan University’s Campus Dining is striving to offer healthier choices and accommodate those with vegetarian, vegan or special dietary needs.

Several changes were made this semester to expand the vegan and healthy offerings in residential restaurants, said Nikki Smith, the Campus Dining district marketing manager.

The “Flexitarian” bar, which is new this year, focuses on grains, raw and roasted vegetables and protein replacements, providing mostly plant-based options for students. A “Go Nuts” station offers healthier sources of fat and protein.

Healthy protein and fat sources are important for students like Grand Rapids freshman Emily Doucette, who identifies as a pescetarian — a person who does not eat meat, but eats fish. Of the surveyed dining hall guests, 47 percent stated they are “somewhat interested in making healthy choices and (are) careful about many of the foods (they) eat.”

When deciding what food options should be brought to CMU, Campus Dining has a menu committee in charge of ensuring the menu addresses current food trends and meets students’ wants and needs.

Many of the new items this year were tested at Robinson Residential Restaurant during the spring semester of last year. The menu committee then evaluated tested items before adding them to the menu, Smith said.

Detroit sophomore Angel Stallings said Campus Dining should focus more on those with other special dietary needs, not just accommodating plant-based diets.

“While there are vegan and healthy options present in the residential halls, there should be more emphasis on food options for students who are gluten-intolerant or prefer dairy-free foods,” she said.

Campus Dining will feature Plant Forward limited-time only menus that feature various vegetables and plant-based foods in all residential restaurants until Nov. 10, along with interactive, educational display tables.

Plant Forward menus seek to introduce all guests, not just those who choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, to vegetables in a way that they don’t feel like they’re missing out on anything as part of the growing trend to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet.