To veg or not veg: how to follow a plant-based diet on campus

By Piper Sartison

Elm Staff Writer

This year, Washington College introduced new options for students who follow a plant-based diet on campus with the addition of Freshens Fresh Food Kitchen, a quick-service dining establishment that serves rice bowls, salads, and smoothies, as well as advancements to the dining hall’s Roots station.

“The Roots Station caters to vegan and vegetarian lifestyles,” Sara-Ann Batts, chef of the Roots station said. “It also helps people explore new territory.”

According to Batts, the main goal of the Roots station is to show students differing vegetarian delicacies, from any country or culture.

“We can do anything from Asian cuisine to Indian cuisine, to anything where it’s just throw it in a pan and put whatever sauce you want,” Batts said.

Depending on what ingredients are imported to the dining hall each week, Batts provides students with non-meat protein sources like tofu, rice, beans, cauliflower rice, and quinoa. 

“It’s nourishing them, it’s helping them… Everybody’s enjoying it….Food is universal. It’s one language we can all speak,” Batts said. 

“I definitely think that in the three years that I’ve been here things have gotten a lot better,” junior Kaitlin Dunn said. “Now, I’m actually eating at the dining hall, which is something I never thought I would actually do. They’ve added tofu at the wrap station so I’m not just getting a wrap with only lettuce and cheese.” 

In addition to the Roots station, Freshens also provides students with plant based food options. On their menu, students can try bowls that contain meatless chicken, as well as other sources of protein like rice bowls and smoothies. 

According to Dunn, there are more vegetarian options for her to order on campus with the addition of Freshens.

“I was very shocked and very excited to see that they had a vegetarian chicken option,” she said.

Junior Autumn Scully feels differently about WC’s dining options. When asked about the plant-based options she can explore on campus, Scully said that it has not been a positive experience.

“I find myself eating like the same thing every day,” Scully said. “I feel like when they try, they do a good job. I’ve had a lot of fun tofu stuff….When they actually put the effort in it’s usually good, they just don’t keep vegans and vegetarians in mind for every meal.”

To accommodate students with plant-based diets, Batts wants to incorporate new ingredients into the Roots station. However, she must work with what is imported into the kitchen for that week.

“We didn’t have anything in there to make sauces with last weekend… I’m taking fruit from the salad bar, trying to figure out how to make a salad for the day,” Batts said.

The Roots station is open on weekdays for lunch from 11 a.m. through 3 p.m. and for dinner from 4:30 p.m. until 8 p.m..

Freshens is also open on weekdays from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m..

Batts encourages all students to try her healthy plant-based ingredients, as they are welcome to customize and create their own dishes with the provided ingredients. 

Photo by Katie Tack

Photo caption: Sara-Ann Batts works daily to cook up made-to-order vegan meals at the Roots station. Batts prepares a selection of greens, grains, noodles, and homemade sauces to create a unique dish with each trip.

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