What is Veganism?

Veganism is a lifestyle choice that eliminates all animal products from one’s diet, and instead incorporates a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts to give the body the nutrients it needs to perform its vital functions and prevent diseases.

This website will encompass a variety of aspects of vegan culture on the UW-Madison campus, including some of the benefits as well as challenges students face.

Watch the video below to see my inspiration behind creating this website.

 

Discovering a Limitless Niche

Exploring the challenges and solutions to veganism on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus

By Anne Tarmann

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When you walk into a dining hall on the UW campus, you will find everything covered in cheese, milk and meat, especially since Wisconsin is known as America’s dairyland. While the freedom to eat these foods is exciting for new students, it can be overwhelming for students with dietary restrictions. Although vegan students are a minority on campus, they are able to overcome the challenges of Wisconsin’s meat-and-cheese based society. Here is how they are making it possible.

Many people choose to become vegan to become a healthier individual or for ethical, environmental or religious reasons. Some students like Leesha Hall recognize that most restaurants and food options on campus showcase meat and processed foods, which can be detrimental to human health.

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“We as a society have become programmed to eat massive amounts of meat and dairy products, and on top of that processed foods. When I go to the grocery store and pick something off the shelf, I couldn’t even tell you some of the chemicals and preservatives in it that we are putting into our bodies. Our food shouldn’t have a shelf life of 10 years, and that makes me question what kind of nutritional value this food actually has,” Hall said.

Eating a whole food, plant-based diet can be beneficial to a person’s health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, America’s leading cause of death is coronary heart disease that kills over 600,000 people a year. The CDC emphasizes that eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of chronic diseases.

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Ashley Hampton, a student and founder of the “Raw in College” vegan food blog, is passionate about her health so it is easy and convenient for her to be vegan on campus.

“I make my health a priority so it comes very naturally to me. I never think about eating animal products or processed food because I do not consider them ‘food’ anymore. I’ve never been to a restaurant that couldn’t serve me. I always order a big salad with all of the raw veggies available. When restaurants have fruit, I get that too,” Hampton said.

There are many affordable options available in the university dorms, local restaurants and grocery stores.

“When I was in college, it can actually be a lot cheaper. I ate a lot of beans and rice with salsa, which is cheaper than eating meat for every meal,” UW graduate Nathan Hammon said. “Madison is a very vegan friendly city as there are a variety of restaurants especially on Atwood and Willy Street that cater to vegans. It is possible to get enough protein and it is not as expensive, or hard, or as strange as some people might think”

Marcy Braun, a University Health Services Nutritionist who has been working in Madison for 15 years, says that being vegan is attainable on campus and can have a broad range of benefits as long as the person’s nutritional needs are being met. However, it can be limiting by restricting social activities like going out to eat if the individual has too many guidelines.

“There’s a lot of options in Madison, but I have still seen people walk into my office who are iron deficient, have low energy and napping all the time,” Braun said. “It can be done in a very healthful way, but there are some people that just have a lot of food rules. There are some realities people have to consider in their situation and that sometimes being a student is not the optimal time.”

Other students choose not to live a vegan lifestyle, like Kieran Paddock.

“I am fortunate enough to not have any health issues that would force me to monitor what I eat closely. I also enjoy a variety of food, and there are some foods that I would not want to cut out of my diet,” Paddock said. “One of the biggest things that discourages me from being a vegan is knowing that it takes more effort to plan meals, which I am already not the best at.”

However, Paddock said that it would be easy to be vegan on campus, since grocery stores are accommodating to most diets, and residence halls don’t limit students to normal diets.

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There are resources in Madison for students to utilize, including nutrition services offered at UHS. Nutritionists and dietitians at University Housing who help students find items on the dining menu to accommodate any special diet.

Even though there are challenges to being a vegan, there are plenty of diverse and affordable options to explore whether students decide to follow a vegan diet or not on the UW-Madison campus.

 

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