DENTON, TEXAS, USA, August 30, 2011 (Reuters): The University of North Texas in Denton has opened an all-vegan full-service campus cafeteria that may be the first in the nation and is proving immensely popular. Lines snake out the door. University officials are finding many of the students who eat there are not vegans but simply want to eat healthy meals.
Inside "Mean Greens," quotes from Gandhi and Einstein decorate the walls. Students balance plates of paninis made with fresh focaccia baked at the cafeteria, roasted vegetables, vegetarian sushi, bowls of asparagus soup, glasses of flavored vitamin waters and shot glasses of bananas foster. No animal products are served, including meat, milk or eggs. But almost everyone was leaving with cones of soy-based soft-serve ice cream, a natural choice in the sweltering first week of school.
Animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has given UNT its Compassionate Campus award this month for responding to student requests and supporting veganism.
Surveys by food services providers such as Bon Appetit and Aramark have shown rising demand for vegan fare. Huling said Aramark's survey of hundreds of schools indicated one in four students was actively seeking vegan options. And other schools are showing interest. Inquiries have come from as far off as Germany and as close as Dallas.
Another innovation at "Mean Greens" is the use of plates instead of standard-issue cafeteria trays. This has cut both waste and water usage by 40 percent. That change is being considered at some of UNT's other four dining halls.