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Feeding student minds and student bodies - 22/09/2003
 
The academic year opens a keen market for caterers and retailers and for hungry consumers consigned to the mercies of budget self-catering nosh or canteen / refectory fare in college.
How is it then for those of fastidious tastes beyond the famed 5-a-day fruit and veg to the meat reducers, dairy-frees, and full-blooded veggies? During the summer conference season VEGA has had opportunities to suss out the situation and to arm the student population with combined hints and advice.

New term socials, clubbing, and freshers’ fairs are fine for putting the world to rights in heady flights of reform. However, when push comes to shove we live in a market economy in which the beeping at the tills is the music to which the producers dance, rather than an unorchestrated jangle of sporadic virtuous tunes – although even the mightiest retailers will respond to the leverage of well-delivered variations.

So you should be able to demand access to the full repertoire offered by supermarkets and local shops: have no truck with the "we get no demand for it" or "we bought a packet or carton, but were left with most of it" (probably because it wasn’t put out in a clear position). Plenty of consumers with aversions of all sorts to dairy products like the non-dairy alternatives in their tea or on their breakfast cereal.

Go whey out with no further complicity with the offensive dairy industry and abandon cheesytarianism and quichytarianism and forgo foods unnecessarily buttered up or tricked out with by-products of this deplorable trend. Caterers can avoid complications by making the veggie choices really veggie (i.e. vegan) – and suitable for dairy-frees and people such as Jewish students with religious persuasions. Just for one thing, the anti-hunters and environmentalists have to think of the threat dairying poses to badgers.

You should be able to treat yourself with non-dairy ice-creams and yoghurts, of which many supermarkets stock an interesting supply. For the veggie standbys, major retailers are selling nuts and dried fruits, as well as items such as non-milk slab chocolate and chocolate-coated nuts. Campus shops should be able to equal or surpass these ranges.

You’ll enlist a lot of sympathy if you set a demand for foods not cosmetically "enhanced" with substances tested cruelly on animals. Lurid green mushy peas and flaming red curries indicate signs of mischief. The Food Standards Agency and some of the supermarkets are returning to the problems with caramels (E150), which are used ubiquitously for colouring (even for pet food). Get browned-off with Vegemite and go for a yeast extract (such as the low salt varieties) that don’t need tarting up. And avoid the cola drinks (nearly all of them) that contain lots of caramel and sugar.

Same with beer, and even spirits. These products wriggle out of requirements that apply for foodstuffs, so you may not know exactly what’s in your tipple. But your Students Union bar, with the help of CAMRA and us, can find out and sell beers that have no shame over their ingredients and production (e.g. use of animal-derived finings). These include Samuel Smiths and beers brewed in Germany.

Go Indian and you are likely to have a good meal. Ghee can be veggie (i.e. venaspati) but milk products turn up in some apparently unquestionable offerings. Questioning and more questioning will elicit alterations to wide effect. Naans can now be found in supermarkets.

Many supermarkets are competing with ranges (and special offers) of veggie ready-meals. Assurances and approvals on some state falsely, that they are "suitable" for real veggies: falsely, because they are adulterated with milk and egg proteins. Complain to vendor, address well-known! Supermarkets can be budged into enterprise in the sale of cruelty-free food.

Watch us for further help. Good luck in nourishing body and mind. There are new opportunities in communal and institutional catering.
 
 
 

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