What did 184 UR students have in common with Albert Einstein, Mohandas Gandhi and Ellen DeGeneres from Monday, Oct. 22 to Friday, Oct. 26? The answer: vegetarianism.
This group of students participated in the Student Association of Vegan and Vegetarian Youth (SAVVY)’s first-ever Veg Challenge. As a part of Vegetarian Awareness Month, the project challenged students to go vegetarian or vegan for five days. According to SAVVY’s Veg Challenge website, the goal was “to help people gain a better understanding of what it is like to be on a plant-based diet and to encourage the community to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet as part of their daily routine.”
SAVVY Co-President and junior Melody Jaros said that the inspiration for the Veg Challenge came from similar programs that asked participants to give up certain foods for a certain length of time.
“I thought it would be fun to see if we could get students at [UR] to try a challenge like that,” she said.
And try, they did. SAAVY’s goal was to have 150 participants.
“I got very excited when I saw that we had 148 Veg Challengers,” Jaros said. “I was shocked when I woke up the next day to see not just 150, but 184 people had signed up for the challenge.”
Students had a variety of reasons for participating in the challenge including, but not limited to, a test of personal will power.
Sophomore Ryan Wier cited reasons on a global scale, beyond an individual level.
“There is a great ecological and environmental cost in raising animals for human consumption,” he said.
However, it wasn’t just omnivores who participated in the challenge. Many flexitarians (people who eat meat occasionally) and pescetarians (people who eat only fish) took the challenge, as well as vegetarians, who could participate as an opportunity to try veganism.
Sophomore Alexandra Poindexter has been a vegetarian since July.
“My challenge was to be 100 percent vegan,” she said.
Fulfilling goals for the challenge proved to be difficult for some. The week was busy with midterms and other obligations for many students and eating in the dining halls was the most commonly cited concern. Despite UR’s distinction as one of the most vegan-friendly schools in the country, students found the options on campus less than thrilling.
“The hardest part was sometimes having difficulty finding food in the dining halls that was both appetizing and vegetarian-friendly,” Wier said.
Nonetheless, many students did complete the challenge, either fully or partially. Some participants were surprised to find that they did not desire the missing foods after a few days and saw the challenge as a helpful way to test their own limits.
“I think it was very successful because now I know I can be 100 percent vegan with ease,” Poindexter said.
Jaros was happy about the response to the Veg Challenge.
“The most exciting part… was sitting back and watching the buzz it generated,” she said.
However, she recognizes that there is room for improvement.
“There are so many things we could do bigger and better for next year,” she said. “I’d love to bring in more prominent guest speakers, collaborate with more groups and offer even more veg options in the dining halls.”
Hansler is a member of
the class of 2015.