This article is a part of the Features column “I Tried.” Read more installments here.
Saturday evening, I walked into Lipton Dining Hall, ready to grab some grilled chicken to go. As I walked up and ordered a piece of grilled chicken from a friendly Lipton staff member, I was abruptly asked, “You know you won’t be able to get chicken tomorrow, right?” The world began to collapse around me as I processed what I had just heard. No more chicken? What could bring someone to do this? Who was behind it?
The answer lay behind a massive campaign led by LS freshman Aneri Mehta and the Animal Welfare Collective. Mehta helped the Animal Welfare Collective at NYU work with NYU Dining to create a “plant-based pop up” dining hall for a few days to increase awareness for vegan options. They had an aggressive marketing campaign that included numerous flyers and booths set up around Lipton to persuade passerby to try “Vegan Lipton.” Mehta describes the effort as an event during Go Green week that demonstrates NYU’s dedication to sustainability and healthy dining. The atmosphere in Lipton certainly reflected this dedication as staff members wore bright green shirts to complement the eco-friendly theme.
When I stumbled down for brunch at the new vegan pop up dining hall on Sunday morning, I was immediately surprised by how busy it was. As I walked up to the kiosk where I swipe in, I was met with a detailed flyer that offered advice on how to gain necessary proteins and nutrients on a plant-based diet. Armed with this fact sheet, I entered the dining hall.
Students were both cautiously curious and slightly confused about Lipton’s transformation.
“A lot of people were hesitant while waiting for their food in the line, but would then try the food and ultimately come back for further servings,” Mehta said.
CAS freshman Vinnie Zhang was very happy with the food served at the dining hall, despite not being vegan.
“I loved it,” Zhang said. “Honestly thought the food was really good, and thought the cookies were better than their regular ones.”
Tisch freshman Addison Worthington was not displeased with the outcome. However, he thought something was missing.
“It was pretty okay, I mean it was just more limited, really,” Worthington said. “The fact that they didn’t have actual milk for coffee at least was kind of upsetting because I would like coffee with milk at least please.”
On the other hand, SPS freshman Leon Li hated the changes in the dining hall and thought it unwise to change one of the dining halls into a vegan dining hall. He also did not appreciate the lack of meat in his diet as an athlete.
“Absolutely horrible,” Li said. “I went to the grill after a long day of class and found out that they didn’t have chicken. I was pretty bummed. Moreover, the sandwich bar didn’t have any meat or cheese either. How can you make a good sandwich without cheese or meat?”
Overall, Mehta sees it as a success. Like any instance of change, there was a whole range of reactions, but overall, she believes the response was good.
As a Lipton resident, I ate at the vegan pop up dining hall quite a few times over the three days it was running, and was impressed with the variety of options the dining staff managed to offer. Not all students were happy with the change, but it offered a positive reminder of NYU’s dedication to inclusion and sustainability, and allowed those often disappointed by the limited vegan options at Lipton an opportunity to enjoy a dining hall dedicated to their diet.
Email Nathaniel Mahlum at [email protected]
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, May 1 print edition.