Being vegan means not eating or using any animal derived products. According to the American Dietetic Association, "[A]ppropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes." In other words, veganism in of itself is not unhealthy, as many like to claim.
What is a vegan?
Like vegetarians, vegans avoid anything that necessitates the killing of an animal (meat, gelatin, rennet, etc [and "meat" includes fish!]). However, they also avoid the commonly-used ingredients of dairy and eggs, along with things like honey, casein, lanolin, etc. Many Knox vegans live in the Ecohouse, because raising animals to be eaten is bad for the environment. Another motivation to be vegan is the incredible and well-documented cruelty toward animals in the meat, dairy, and egg industries. Even eggs and dairy are not kill-free, as both industries kill almost all male animals shortly after they are born, since they cannot produce milk or eggs.
Being a vegan at Knox
It can be difficult to live a healthy vegan lifestyle at Knox while still eating at the Knox cafeteria, but good options are available with some exploration, especially if one's not dependent on the cafeteria for all three meals a day. Tofu is rare, though available, and the available veggies are usually unexciting but work as sides. Seitan is available at the stir-fry station, and the salad bar is always an option, but no one wants to eat the same things day after day, nor is it healthy to do so. However, there are vegan breads and sandwich topping options, like peanut butter, jelly, and hummus, and plenty of fruit. There is soy milk in the refrigerator near the stir fry station, and many of the cereals are also vegan, not to mention the fresh fruit that's available at breakfast and lunch.
Veganism at Knox means that, on many days, the soup, grilled food, dessert, or main course dishes are totally off limits, but there are still plenty of exceptions. The highlight of the Knox vegan options is often considered to be the vegan dumplings, usually available at Sunday brunch (but occasionally other times), and many non-vegans enjoy them as well. The cafeteria actually has a good number of vegan soups that can be a nice break from the usual options; they include Zesty Lentil and Orzo, Red Beans and Rice, Vegan Tomato, Pumpkin and Black Bean, Garden Vegetable, and Vegan Chili. They are usually offered at least a couple of times a week. Some are not labeled "vegan" on the online menu, but they are labeled so in the cafeteria, and they are indeed vegan. Occasionally, there are vegan entrees (such as vegan moussaka) and couscous dishes, and there are often vegan sides like french fries, tater tots, and rice. The marinara sauce is vegan and can be used on some of the vegetables, such as zucchini, to create a substantial entree. There are even quarts of Soy Delicious (vegan soy "ice cream") in the freezer where the rest of the ice cream is stored. With planning and creativity, it is not hard to put together a vegan meal (even with dessert!) in the cafeteria most days of the week.
Of course, it still takes quite a bit of effort to give up animal products without access to the variety of replacements that one might have at home, especially with no car and limited space to store anything. However, it can definitely be done with a little willpower.
Veganism can be grounds for getting off board, especially with a documented health problem, or vitamin deficiency. If you're looking at getting off board for these reasons, talk to Craig Southern. The school makes a lot of money from student board, and they won't let you go easily.