A push for inclusive dining options

Students with dietary restrictions are struggling with the limited options Hamline’s dining provides

Leslie Farrera-Perez, Reporter

This year, Hamline has more students with dietary restrictions than it has ever before. However, the institution has yet to take the necessary steps to meet their needs. Fednise Stark, a vegan first-year student, is one of those students struggling to get dining services to accommodate her needs.


According to Stark, the quality and options of food declined after the first week of school. There was eventually no protein and only vegetables she could eat.


“My roommate and I were both practicing vegans,” Stark said. “If we didn’t have the option, we would go to the salad area or the sandwich area to get something. But the food was not really good. It wasn’t seasoned. If they had tofu, it wasn’t cooked tofu. Nothing was prepared the way that it should, because it just seemed like you’re eating raw, raw dishes.”

Lauren Thompson

Students who have dietary restrictions have very few options for meals . Some
students, like Stark, have even switched their meal plans.

Because of the limited options, Stark had lost about 16 pounds. “From the time that I came to school, on August 27, to like, I believe, September 20, or something, I had lost so much weight just from not eating properly,” Stark said. “And I was messaging my mom like, ‘Mom, I am not eating, I’m not getting enough food and I am losing weight.’”


Stark decided to take action and got in contact with dining services. She was continuously directed to talk to people who would then send her to talk to others. It seemed like she was getting nowhere. It took about a month before she actually got her meal plan changed. 


Stark was frustrated after trying to get help. “Why was I going through all these, like strings? Just to have my meal plan changed?” Stark said.


A dining services employee who told Stark they would help her made a false promise: “She even said, when I talked to her it was on a Thursday, I remembered. And she’s like, ‘Oh, just so you know, so many people have come to me with this same problem because this is the greatest amount of vegans that we have had in Hamline at all.’ And so I was like, Okay, so now that they know that, they will change,” Stark said.


The person then told Stark to come the following Monday because they would talk to the chef and change the menu. They also told Stark that if a meal was not working or if she needed something else, she could contact her and she would make sure it was on the menu.


“And when Monday came, nothing changed. And I would message her like, ‘This food is not good. It doesn’t have seasoning, it doesn’t have anything in it that I actually want to eat’ and some days, I went back to my dorm, and I didn’t end up eating anything because it made me sick to my stomach to actually eat,” Stark said.


Stark believes the limited food options are unjust: “I’ve just gotten so frustrated with the lack of not having any vegan options available. Sometimes, like for a while, and still now they only have zucchini and broccoli, and some kind of green vegetable for the vegan area. I’m frustrated, because I was promised, and so many other people were promised that they would be getting more vegan options and they’re getting stuff for rabbits. That’s not right.”


In addition to this, Stark says a friend of hers wanted to get her meal plan changed for religious reasons. Her application was denied.


“It’s hard to go outside your religion, just for the sake of you know, one community, you know what I mean? And when she saw my thing, she got really mad and she fought harder because it wasn’t right for her to not be able to change her meal plan,” Stark said.


Stark hopes that people who are in charge of making changes can better meet students’ needs and fulfill their promises. 


“Don’t say, ‘Oh, it’s gonna change Monday’ and then when Monday comes, it doesn’t change. Then people are disappointed by the results of everything,” Stark said. “Another thing would just be like, because it’s a huge vegan network this year, why is there not a broader vegan’s section? You shouldn’t have to wonder about where you’re going to get your next source of protein.”