Veganism has risen by 600% in the last three years according to the Food Revolution Network. Not only has veganism been on the rise, but so has the gluten-free diet. Studies show that over one hundred million consumers follow the gluten-free diet, with the majority of them not being celiacs (Richardson, 2018). With these surprising statistics, it is no wonder that Daniel VanAvery, general manager of Sodexo, decided to implement more vegan and gluten-free options onto the menu.
“The way we’ve always made our food is to order. So they’ve always been there but we made it a lot more obvious,” VanAvery said. Along with making the options more obvious to students, he also added a few new vegan and gluten-free options. For example, they have added a vegan tortellini which can be paired with the vegan red sauce they have had in the past. They also added vegan yogurt at the smoothie bar, dairy-free ice cream and oat milk. For gluten-free options, he said last year they did the big push for those additions. Every station has gluten-free options, but VanAvery said he is working on finding a better gluten-free dinner roll so they can have that option as well. Although many of these options were available last year, Sodexo’s staff has gotten trained more on these dietary restrictions so they are better able to accommodate.
Nejra Fazlic (‘19) is a resident student who has been vegan for two and a half years. Fazlic went into detail about how difficult it was when she first started searching for vegan options in 2016. After finding a few vegan options, she would have to keep repeating those meals since there weren’t as many accommodations. With these new updates to the menu, Fazlic seems to be most excited about the new vegan to-go options, since she doesn’t always have time to sit down and eat. Her favorite one at the moment is the vegan avocado ‘bacon’ wrap. Although she may not like every new option Sodexo is offering, she is just happy about the efforts being made.
“Even if I don’t particularly like a certain vegan item that’s now being offered, I still love the direction that Sodexo is going by being more inclusive and sensitive to different diets. It’s also ‘normalizing’ veganism a little more at SNHU, which is not a common diet for many students here,” Fazlic said. Normalizing the vegan diet is a goal for VanAvery too. He says that these vegan and gluten-free options are not just for those with restrictions. He actually suggests that more students try these options, because they do tend to be healthier options.
The one concern Fazlic has is the lack of vegan desserts. Every once in a while Sodexo offers a vegan dessert, but it is not consistent and there isn’t much variety. Good news for both vegans and gluten-free people is that VanAvery said he is currently looking into more options for the dessert menu. He just hired an additional baker, so there are now three bakers at Southern New Hampshire University. VanAvery reflected on the chocolate pie he made his daughter for Thanksgiving and is looking to be able to replicate that on a larger scale and make vegan and gluten-free desserts more common. “Dessert is an area we struggle a little bit still. It is a priority for us, but we are getting there,” VanAvery responded when asked about how he plans to produce more vegan and gluten-free desserts.
Sodexo really cares about the students and wants to cater directly to them. VanAvery said he would love if people would share some recipes and ideas with him, because right now he is going off what he thinks everyone would like to eat. He is always open to new options and will look into anything to accommodate students. There is only one dining option on this campus and he wants to make sure everyone is happy with their food choices. A few options to look forward to are dairy-free mac and cheese and a vegan pizza coming within the next few weeks.