The last time I ate at a college dining hall, the vegan pickings were slim. I meandered around until I was able to scrounge together a few sides of brown rice, wilted veggies, and french fries. Chartwells Higher Education is striving to change that scenario. This week, the contract food service management company launched a program called 100% Plant Forward to bring plant-based food options to campuses nationwide.
Through 100% Plant Forward, universities can bring more plant-based foods into their dining halls, either via short-term plant-based food pop-ups or more permanent options. In addition to offering fully plant-based foods, Chartwell aims to make its new platform inclusive of global cuisines. Several menu items served through 100% Plant Forward include Thai Spiced Marinated Tofu, Sriracha Roasted Cauliflower, Tikki Chaat, Pomegranate Cauliflower Chickpea Salads, and Braised Lentil Quinoa Burgers.
So far, Chartwells has piloted 100% Plant Forward on several campuses, including Colgate University, St. John Fisher College, and Northeastern University. Colgate University held a 100% Plant-Forward take over of its dining hall for a day, where all-vegan food was served and dining concepts like a vegetable butcher shop and vegan rotisserie were tested out.
Following a vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based diet is not necessarily considered fringe amongst younger generations, especially with Gen Z. Amongst this particular demographic (currently anyone aged 6-24 years old) 79 percent report wanting to eat meat-free meals, while 60 percent are interested in eating more plant-based foods. Gen Z is the average age group that is entering universities, so it makes sense for dining halls to accommodate this demographic’s dietary preferences.
Earlier this year, Chartwells also began piloting ghost kitchens on college campuses to bring a diversity of food options to college students. In addition to Chartwells, a few other companies are attempting to give college dining halls a reboot. Yo-Kai Express started installing hot ramen vending machines on college campuses, while Chowbotics is brought automated salad-making robots. Students on certain college campuses can even have restaurant meals delivered by robots through Starship and Kiwi.
Food technology is changing the way students eat on campus rapidly, and this seems to be a good thing. Thanks to companies like Chartwells, it seems the days of chowing down disappointing vegan options are numbered (hopefully).