The life of an on-campus vegan

Salad bar at the dining hall. (Photo by Nicole Rollo)
Salad bar at the dining hall. (Photo by Nicole Rollo)

By Victoria Mandella
Looking around the dining hall, she spots what she is looking for; today is one of the few days they have vegan food!
Fitchburg State University senior student Brooke Garnick has been a vegan for nine years due to personal convictions. Being a resident at the university for the past four years, she knows it can be difficult to find suitable food items in the school cafeteria. Although many students are under the impression that there’s a vegetarian section, Garnick claims that’s not really the case. She explains how, oftentimes, there will be mostly vegan items on one day, and then little to no vegan items during the rest of the week.
“I wish that I could take it all home,” Garnick says.
When someone becomes a vegan, many people can already determine a wide variety of food is eliminated from his or her diet. After all, a typical vegan will stray away from foods containing any animal products, ranging from meat to dairy. However, a great portion of people might not realize just how many foods actually fail to fit a vegan’s standards. A few items that don’t make the list include gelatin (marshmallows, Jell-O, gummy bears), foods with any sort of dairy (ice cream, pizza, brownies, various candies and certain cereals), or even broths of many soups.
This all raises the question: What does Garnick eat? On days with such limited options, she often resorts to salad, vegan cereals, and peanut butter bagels. Of course, she enjoys countless other foods as well.
Many people will ask vegans silly questions such as, “So what do you do all day, sit around eating lettuce?” The answer to this question: No. Even on days where there are few food options at the cafeteria, yes, Garnick might eat a salad – but she also loves vegan cereals with soy milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, white rice, and an assortment of fruits and vegetables, among other things. When she’s at home, she is able to enjoy even greater variety because she is more able to make food to her liking.
That’s not to say that Garnick doesn’t experience difficulty with her vegan dieting. Since a surprising amount of foods turn out to be non-vegan, Garnick accidentally eats dairy from time to time. The latest incident was just a few months ago, when she ate beans that had been mixed with dairy ingredients. Some individuals may not be aware of the fact that, after the body goes long periods without a certain substance, in this case animal products, it doesn’t react well once it finally does get a taste. Because of this, Garnick and many other vegans can experience nausea and vomiting.
Vegetarian section in the dining hall. (Photo by Nicole Rollo)
Vegetarian section in the dining hall. (Photo by Nicole Rollo)

Fortunately for her, she has not mistakenly eaten meat in over 10 years, which was only after she had first become a vegetarian at the age of 10. Now 21 years old, she has been a full-blown vegan since she was 12. Originally, Garnick’s reason was because she sympathized with the animals, but after nine years of veganism, it has become more than that. She explains how, even if she smelled barbecued meat and enjoyed the aroma, she still wouldn’t be tempted to eat any meat that was set down in front of her.
“To me, it just seems gross to eat now,” Garnick said.
There are plenty of people who are disapproving of a vegan diet, and Garnick’s parents were originally among them. With time, they came to accept her choice, especially after seeing that she helps to maintain a healthy and balanced diet with calcium and multivitamin supplements; however, there are still many other critics, including much of her extended family, who will frequently ask her if she is still a vegan. Garnick admits that the frequent questioning she faces can be somewhat frustrating, particularly when they dismiss it as “just a phase.”
To Garnick, her veganism is not a phase. She has not only been a vegan for a decade, but she also has no foreseeable plans of changing her diet. She says that she might become a vegetarian if, for example, her diet or health becomes too difficult to maintain.
Anything beyond her health being in question, however, Garnick says, “I would really like to not eat meat again.”