Think that a vegan diet is an oxymoron in cattle country? Not so at the University of North Texas, which has made following a plant-based diet very much a reality by building the Mean Greens dining hall. The idea for the vegan-only hall was developed out of student demand, and served an average of 4,500 students a day in the first week after opening August 22, shares Ken Botts, director of special programs for UNT Dining Services. “Students vote with their feet,” he says. “By showing they really, really liked it, we knew we made the right decision.”
The culinary staff worked all summer to develop vegan recipes that would actually taste good. With offerings including pasta, sushi, desserts, fresh grilled vegetables, paninis, and even pizza, students have a wide variety of options. “There’s a lot of flavor going on and you don’t miss the dairy products, you don’t miss the meat and the cheese and all that,” says Botts.
UNT has five dining halls on campus—three more than most campuses of its size—so having the space to convert one to all vegan wasn’t a problem. Dining Services was able to repurpose and redecorate the existing “healthy options” dining hall.
Not only are students thrilled about the new campus eating option, but Botts says the administration and dining services staff have received an outpouring of support from the community. He has even received calls from a university in Germany looking to mimic UNT’s efforts, and a newspaper in Jerusalem looking to report on it. “The feedback was just off the charts,” he says.
Click here to access the full Mean Greens menu.