For anyone who believes it’s a boring diet, the success shows that’s just plain wrong, because Aless Donebauer’s food was so popular catering bosses changed the menus to become “more inclusive” of all students and staff.
The new vegan-friendly menus were launched recently at the University of Manchester and include at least one vegan option every day, as well as more plant-based milks on offer.
First year mathematics student Aless, 18, is currently the only vegan in the catered Tree Court at Owens Park in Manchester - but her food has gained more fans across the university.
She said: “Hopefully the new menus will help educate people as to how veganism is great for not just the animals, but also the environment and our health.
“I would love it if we could show people how easy it is to make the switch and convince them to give it a go.”
Head of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Manchester Emma Gardner, who is a vegan herself, revealed the team listened to Aless’ suggestions as well considered other students’ needs and the sustainability issue.
She said: “As a university, we take our supply really seriously and source organic local produce whenever possible.
“We see more vegans coming to university and a result of student engagement, we now have at least one vegan option across the halls and bigger canteens.
“It is more inclusive of everybody as we offer shepherd’s pie topped with sweet potato mash, tikka masala, red bean stew, falafel and spinach burger, lentil casserole, vegetable enchiladas, bolognese, pies and vegan hot dogs.”
Myles Kitchiner, Operations Manager in Catering, added: “There’s been an increase this year of vegan students throughout Manchester and we’ve reacted to that.
“We have this particular student who was the only vegan in her halls and the chefs went out of the way to do the dishes for her, hence she’s been publicising how pleased she is.
“On the back of that, this semester we decided to put a vegan dish in all the halls on each day in all the menus.
“It’s been very well received that we’re providing the choice and the variety to all students. We’ve found that non-vegan people are also enjoying the dishes, so it’s a win-win.”
Initially horrified at the extremely limited vegan options in the canteen, Aless met chef Deana whom she described as “an angel [who] came to my rescue, clothed in white, greasy overalls”.
“Before coming to university, I was worried that there wouldn’t be anything for me,” said Aless.
“But when I met the catering team, Deana understood my needs and was very enthusiastic about cooking vegan meals.
“She made a fantastic vegan chilli con carne for me.”
Aless added she has been treated to gourmet meals including chickpea curry, mushroom stroganoff, red peppers stuffed with quinoa and vegan pasta bakes.
Deana said: “It’s very nice to be appreciated for the effort you put in.
“We always have a vegetarian option in Tree Court which is often vegan-friendly, so we don’t need to cook extra dishes all the time although I don’t mind doing it if necessary.”
Aless, who has been vegan for over six months, initially made the change because of ethical reasons but has since discovered the health and environmental benefits.