Where are the Bananas?!

No, I’m not just putting some weird click-bait title to get some more views on my blog. Although that isn’t a bad idea.

I’m genuinely asking that question to my college campus. Because for the past couple of days, I have been on the hunt for the simplest of things: bananas. One of the cheapest, most accessible fruits out there. And somehow my college has none in sight. The convenience stores are out. The dining hall doesn’t have any either. All I want is a gosh darn banana.

Even though my college has attempted to expand its healthy options, the efforts have been mediocre. Take this silly but real dilemma as an example. The school has a limited fruit selection as is, but when they’re missing a third of that selection, I and many other students have some issues.

I haven’t been the dining hall very often this semester, in all honesty. Not only is the building far away from my dorm, but I much prefer my own options. I appreciate that they for sure have a vegan option at every meal, but the rotation between meals is a small variety.

As I experience the journey of being a healthy vegan on a college campus, I face challenges constantly. It’s all about being flexible, and as Tim Gunn would say, “Make it work.” For example, I praise my boyfriend for not being embarrassed over the fact that I brought an entire bag of empty to Tupperware to fill with veggies and rice. Some campuses openly allow students to take food from the dining hall, but my campus usually frowns upon the practice. Which is silly considering how much we pay for our meal plans, we might as well take advantage of it. And I’m trying to use up my Flex money by buying lots of coffee and overpriced cups of fruit every morning. I guess my goal will be to try every flavor of soy latte this school offers.

I don’t want to complain too much and fill the vegan stereotypes of complaining about food options at a small Midwest campus, but here I am, complaining. I recently found out the catering company that has a monopoly over all campus dining also caters to prisons, so luckily I’m sure these are the better options. And they have made a conscious effort to be more mindful of other dietary preferences. But shouldn’t have to constantly feel I need to supplement my diet with having to buy groceries on a regular basis to actually sustain myself. I already made that mistake. But now I feel bad for feeling like I’m spending so much money beyond my required meal plan.

I’m sure others feel this pain, too: having no choice but to pay for an overpriced meal plan that you’ll probably never use up because the food isn’t worth the time. In an ideal world, I would want to personalize a meal plan with greater freedom to go to the grocery store and not feel guilty for wanting healthier, fresher options. Because even lots of the options the school is adding to be “healthier,” like sandwiches and salads, aren’t vegan.

The vegan population on campus is still fairly small. I actually don’t know any other people who are actually vegan, which can be slightly discouraging. I know plenty of vegetarians, but vegan-wise, I’m a lone wolf. People have told me to “go live in a big city so you have lots of vegan options,” but veganism is one of the easiest, cheapest, and most accessible diets on the planet. The staples of fruits, veggies, and starches, are everywhere. Except the dining hall. It’s not like I’m making fancy meals in my dorm, especially when I only have a microwave. I rely on potatoes, rice, beans and oatmeal most of the time. Such simple foods, but I know I can always refer back to them. And for a college budget, they are very affordable.

So we’re making progress. Veganism is becoming increasingly popular. Now it’s time for society to respond. Because offering more delicious options that are vegan will only convince more people to transition to the lifestyle. I talk about my struggles, and those interested in learning more can feel very intimidated and turned off, the exact opposite of what we need. What we really need are food providers to be proactive in expanding their menus and selections, and the interest will follow suit. As a vegan trying to teach others about my lifestyle, it’s intimidating enough to try and explain the many animal ingredients that sneak into everyday products. And while most cafeteria food, vegan or not, is usually not the best, it sure doesn’t help convincing others how great veganism is.

Do I think my college will actually read this and start taking immediate action? Definitely not. I’m just giving my unsolicited feedback as someone who appreciates progress but craves more. Slow change usually translates into lasting change, so I just have to be patient. The process can just be very cumbersome, especially when I’m craving a banana. Trust me when I say when they restock, I’m grabbing as many as I can. My love for bananas lives on.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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