Last Monday, on the ground floor of Norris, a small group of students pulled their chairs together to talk about vegetables. Well, vegetables, and milkshakes, and potlucks, and the origins of chicken eggs. So went the first official meeting of the NU Veg Society, a new student group committed to creating an open community for vegans, vegetarians, and curious omnivores. The group began informally last year under the leadership of Lucy Pearson, ’12, who wanted to talk to her friends about their love of vegetarian and vegan (“veg”) foods and create an opportunity for her veg friends to eat together. Since then, the society has expanded beyond Pearson’s original friend recruits to include new members who joined the group with diverse goals and ideas.
Some members are vegan as part of a larger commitment to animal welfare. Therefore, one of the group’s main goals is to raise awareness on campus about the treatment of animals, specifically the animals that produce and become our nation’s food. Others are invested in environmental sustainability and want to create a forum for everyone to share their ideas about how a veg lifestyle can not only be healthier for people but also for the environment. All members want to make the society an open and safe community to support each other in living a veg life.
For senior Jessica Pollack, who serves as the social chair, the society is particularly essential because she can talk about a lifestyle choice that she can’t easily talk about with her family. “My family doesn’t really understand, but the people around me are there to support me in my decision,” said Pollack. Pollack joined the society last year as a vegetarian but soon realized it was possible to become vegan, something she had seen as a physical impossibility before becoming friends with healthy vegans in the group. Pollack claims, “I feel great about the food I’m eating, I feel like it’s good for me, and it tastes great.” Pollack and the rest of the society want to share their experiences with others in a non-threatening way. Pollack said she would consider it a huge success if “even one person decides they want to eat one less meat meal a week, or if they just think about what they’re eating in terms of their health, the environment, and where it comes from.” “I love being an example that, ‘Hey! It’s possible!'” added Pollack.
The society does have some active goals to change the way students on campus eat. Considering the large veg population among students, Northwestern is behind in being a veg-friendly school, states Pollack. The society wants to partner with NU to use only cage-free eggs in the dining hall. It’s a simple way to improve the dining experience of all students and one that many other school’s have already done, said Pollack. “We don’t want to take away the meat options in the dining halls, but we do want them to highlight the exciting vegetarian options,” said Pollack.
One way the society plans to welcome veg and non-veg students alike is to demonstrate how delicious vegan foods can be by hosting potlucks, giving cooking lessons, and exploring Chicago’s numerous veg-friendly restaurants. For Pollack, the actual food plays the biggest role in creating a passionate and supportive veg community. When she made the switch to being vegan, she felt surprisingly unlimited. “Vegan food is really flavorful, full of spice, colorful, and a really good dining experience, whether you’re doing it for ethical reasons or not. Vegans are some of the most creative cooks I know – they have to be!” said Pollack. Luckily, Chicago is home to a number of award-winning veg restaurants adored by vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores. One of the society’s first outings will be to The Chicago Diner, whose slogan is “Meat free since ’83.” The diner’s menu boasts foods that would intuitively seem off-limits to anyone on a veg diet: bi bim bap, gyros, bacon cheeseburgers, and milkshakes, all made deliciously veg-friendly. Pollack says that anyone is welcome to join the group for their restaurant outings.
Pollack believes that the NU Veg Society fills a niche that was empty for too long, and NU’s veg community likely agrees.