Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Last Meeting & Food Services

At our last meeting, we talked about making a booklet that says what animal ingredients foods from the Ratty, VDub, etc. have in them. We also divided up the task, assigning each person an eatery. We also discussed showing a vegetarian-related movie and the Meatrix (www.meatrix.com), and we could give people the free flyers we got. On Tuesday, Kate, Aditi, and I met with Bridget from food services, who is the nutritionist who determines the menu for the Ratty. Basically, our idea ran into a lot of problems. Some of these aren't problems with our idea so much as they are problems with how the Ratty operates.
-The Ratty's definition of "vegetarian" and "vegan" currently does not take food additives, such as honey, carmine, or gelatin, into consideration. So, they can label a dish vegan even if it has gelatin. Although, it's highly unlikely that any of the normal vegan foods at the Ratty would have gelatin in them (you know, like salad and pasta). Btw, the pasta is eggless unless it says egg noodles. And there's no chicken stock in any of the vegetarian soups, or anything like that.
-They buy a lot of products pre-made from their suppliers. Their suppliers aren't normal grocery store brands like Kraft, etc. so it can be hard to find out what the ingredients are.
-When their suppliers run out of an item, they temporarily replace it with a similar item. That means, that even if some product they get (like a sauce or something) is vegan, they might replace it with a non-vegan sauce on short notice.
-On the bright side, the vegetarian food is made separately from the meat food (e.g. veggie burgers are cooked separately from the hamburgers, etc.). This is to comply with food safety standards.
-Also, a lot of their vegan items are made from scratch, so we don't have to worry about the distributor. It should be pretty easy to find out what they put in things they make on site.
Also, we gave her suggestions of what vegetarians would like to see on the menu. She said she's trying to figure out a way to serve fake deli meats, but there are a lot of issues (shelf life, appearance, brand, etc.) that have to be worked out. She said she hopes to have it by the beginning of next year.
She didn't seem to be too crazy about our booklet idea, but she said it might work, so she'll think about it and look into it, I guess.
Anyways, I think a good thing for our club to think about now is what movie to show for our movie event. You can post suggestions here to the blog or just email me, and then when we meet we can vote. I propose Chicken Run and Peaceable Kingdom (it's a documentary about factory farming, they interview ex-factory farmers and vegans, and it's about compassion towards animals www.tribeofheart.org).
There are a bunch of people who can't make it this week, so no meeting, but we'll have one next week, fo' sho'.
-Eric

3 comments:

aditi said...

Eric/Kate--
Did she say anything after I left? Like what is the way to move forward with this, are we going to meet again etc?
I thought what Bridget was saying is kind of problematic. Like that they solely define vegan as not containing dairy/eggs/meat. Because that is a overly minimal definition, not really what 'animal products' means. We can talk about this more at our next meeting.
I would really like to see peaceable kingdom but I can't figure out how to borrow/rent it.
-Aditi

Adam said...

To me, the issue here is less what they're serving and more how they label it. So long as things are labeled vegan/vegetarian according to a reasonable definition of vegetarian/vegan, I can make an informed decision about which things I want to eat. Unfortunately, it seems that Dining Services has an incredibly lax standard. Not only that, but the policy of substitution is troubling. As far as I understand it, vegan doesn't even just mean no meat, eggs, or dairy. Rather, it means that something is based on a recipe that contains none of these things. I think that as customers, we at least ought to be informed when a substitution is made (perhaps they could make note of this wherever they label it). Even if it didn't say what the substitution was, I'd have the option of avoiding the particular dish if I wanted to.

As for the booklet idea, I don't think it's necessarily going to be easy, but as customers, we should have access to the information or contact information for suppliers, and if we want to use the information to put together a booklet, I don't think Dining Services can stop us. They don't have any obligation to help us distribute it, certainly, but that we can manage on our own. Incidentally, another possibility would be to put together an online database with the information. This could hold more information, but would require more effort on the part of the students since it wouldn't be as easy to carry into the dining hall. There would, however, be the potential for users to be able to print their own personal booklets based on their own dietary choices. I'd be happy to write the backend for such a project (perhaps during spring break) if people think this is a good idea.

Anyway, I'd like to talk to talk to Bridget about all this at some point. If the status quo does not change, I probably will not return to meal plan next year.

Hope said...

Hi,

I go to RISD, and I'd like to meet some vegans. Can I come to a meeting? Email me at hopearms@gmail.com

Thanks!