When freshman Hannah Rebey arrived at IU, she searched for vegan food options, since it is a part of her treatment for her eating disorder recovery. What she found, though, were scarce food options and empty promises from the university regarding food availability.
“I came to school, and I had this whole website that was full of vegan options, and when I got here there’s pretty much nothing,” Rebey said.
IU has not updated its dining hall food options since students came to campus this year. The class of 2025 arrived and found many of the options presented to them were not accurate.
Rebey said she tried to get in contact with the IU Dining dietician Rachel Frances Dolgner. As well as IU Dining, Dolgner also currently collaborates with Indiana Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics as a board member.
The Indiana Daily Student reached out to Dolgner, but she said she was not available for an interview. Dolgner instead responded with the resource “Net Nutrition” that shows the allergen information for the food in the dining hall. She did not, however, address the lack of options.
“Their solutions were, well — they really weren’t solutions,” Rebey said. “I got an email from the nutritionist today that was like, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got green beans you can eat at Forest,’ so all of their things that they’ve told me I can eat aren’t meals.”
Those with a vegan diet can also only consume one specific dressing at the salad bars called the “Green Goddess,” but based on Rebey and freshman Anna Trautmann’s experiences, it has been consistently sold out.
“They said I can have the tater tots, a fruit cup and the salad bar,” Rebey said. “When I went to the salad bar, they sold out of everything.”
Students like Rebey are also frustrated that they cannot always verify with a chef to check that the food is free of meat products.
“I got a Beyond Burger one time,” Rebey said. “This is just me being anxious about it, just knowing that I hadn’t had options before. I couldn’t check because there were so many people in the line for the grill at Wright that I couldn’t get up to talk to the chef to make sure it was (vegan), so I didn’t eat it.”
IU Dining’s response
Dolgner also provided staffers at the IDS with a list showing all the vegan options at each dining hall. The list includes residence hall dining areas Forest, McNutt (upon renovation) and Wright Quads as well as the Indiana Memorial Union and Campus Cafes and Campus Stores.
Dolgner also responded that she as well as the chefs would love to help any students individually to help guide them to find any specific food or diet to meet their needs. If students would like to contact Dolgner's email email@example.com.
Dining hall alternatives
Other students, like Trautmann and freshman roommate Amara VanMatre, have only gone to the dining halls twice.
“What we’ve had to do is go to an actual grocery store and buy fruit there, and then we just eat fruit or we make overnight oats or pudding,” Trautmann said.
Freshmen were required to buy at least a standard meal plan this year, which totals to $3,800 for both semesters.
“I absolutely regret getting a meal plan,” Trautmann said. “I think that the main reason my parents got me the meal plan was because my mom knew of my dietary restrictions, and so we looked on the IU website, and it made it seem like they had so many options.”
Trautmann and VanMatre said when they have been to the dining halls, the vegan options are either sold out or they just eat salads. They feel as though they have spent a lot of money on their meal plans and it is going to waste.
The roommates also recently had to get a microwave after going to the IU Campus Stores and realizing they would have to rely on mostly microwavable vegan meals.
“When we got here, we could literally not eat anything,” Trautmann said. “What we’ve been doing is buying frozen vegetables and then beans, and then we would buy microwavable rice and just microwave that.”
Having to buy their own food from grocery stores on top of the IU meal plan they have already purchased is upsetting to students like VanMatre.
“It is just really hard to find food we can eat, so it’s very disappointing,” VanMatre said. “Especially because they told us there were going to be a lot of options and there’s not.”
Expensive price tags
In addition to very few vegan options in the dining halls, the vegan accommodations and items are more expensive compared to the food items with no dietary restrictions on them. At Wright Quad dining hall, “The Flame” sells burgers for $6, but the Beyond Burger is $7, and that’s before adding anything to them.
“I don’t think that at home I necessarily spend more money being vegan,” Trautmann said. “Vegan cheese can be more expensive and it is less accessible, but I think that most people on a vegan diet especially if you come from a low-income family can do it really cheap. I think coming to college and then having to spend more money to eat a specific diet is really unfair, especially if it's not available half the time.”
Another food item “The Flame” sells are grilled cheese sandwiches, but the vegan grilled cheese is $6.
“I’ve been trying not to spend a lot of my meal plan because I’m not exactly sure how to budget it,” VanMatre said. “Sometimes I just won’t get the extra added stuff and just get the bare minimum.”
Wright was said to be the easiest for vegan options and accommodations by Rebey, but that is if the options are not already sold out.
“I think overall I would rate the experience probably a 1 out of 10,” Trautmann said. “Just because not only does it take so long — and this isn’t just if you're vegan — but for vegans, all the options are constantly sold out.”