MU’s vegan initiative garners national recognition

Students voiced their concerns about the quality of food at Marquette last year during a number of forums held to gauge student satisfaction. Now, they may be seeing results.

Marquette recently took part in a “Most Vegan-Friendly College” competition sponsored by Peta2, the college and campus branch of the animal rights activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Set up like a March Madness bracket, colleges are pitted against similar-sized schools, with online voting deciding the winner of each match-up. The overall champion must make it past five rounds of challengers to win the competition.

Marquette made it to the “Sweet Sixteen” of the competition, after advancing past Maharishi University of Management in the first round, but ultimately fell short of the championship. The university exited at the hands of Northwestern University.

Marquette was placed in the “Small U.S. School” bracket, along with the likes of Yale University, American University, Xavier University and The University of Chicago. The University of Wisconsin-Madison competed in the “Large U.S. School bracket.” Schools were grouped into either of the two brackets based on class size.

Marquette’s victory against MUM, a school based in Fairfield, Iowa, was certainly surprising given the school offers a completely organic and vegetarian menu and was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a well-known meditation guru born in India. MUM also operates an organic farm and greenhouse.

Although Marquette pulled off an “upset” over MUM, it fell in the second round to Northwestern University, the winner of the 2007 small school competition. Northwestern is currently in the fourth round of competition, facing off against the University of Puget Sound in the “Final Four.” Voting for round four will end Nov. 8, and the winner will be decided by Nov. 19.

Dan Auger, general manager of Sodexo campus services at Marquette, said Marquette’s participation and success in the challenge points to food service improvements that students longed for.

“Marquette made it to the second round, which is a great accomplishment considering we are new to this contest,” Auger said.

Auger pointed to the new “green” menu at the Straz Tower dining hall as a sign of progress.

“We’re pleased with the early results of our efforts at Straz,” Auger said. “I think it has brought more focus to healthy eating and given us a greater repertoire for our other locations.”

Auger also said, based on the success in the challenge and good feedback from students about new initiatives, more changes may be on the way.

“The continued success indicates that we have made some great menu decisions at Straz,” Auger said. “In addition, we can continue to try things not done in the past. For example, the Farmers Market held on Oct. 12. Several local farmers were selling their products, and it was great to see the genuine engagement of our student body.”

Some students are taking notice of the efforts.

“It’s nice to see them responding to student feedback,” said Chris McNamara, a junior in the College of Business Administration. “Having healthier menus is definitely a benefit to everyone.”

Others still see room for improvement.

“They’ve made a couple nice improvements,” said Michael Kunkel, a junior in the College of Business Administration. “But overall, they can work on making the food more nutritious, as well as providing even more organic, vegan and vegetarian options more frequently.”