Harper College Cafeteria Seeks to Offer More Plant-Based Options


Customer of Harper College Cafeteria checking out their plant based option. Photo by Carla Wilson.

In the past, Harper’s plant based students struggled to find options that fit within their diet limitations. To help, Harper’s Cockrell  Cafeteria started offering  menu options for plant based eaters this fall. The cafeteria also still struggles to provide more options for vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians.

Genesis Encarnacion, a sophomore student, explained that the lack of options available for vegans is one of the main reasons she hasn’t gone to the cafeteria in the past.

“The only vegan option I really had was a salad,” Encarnacion said.

The general manager of the cafeteria, Christine Avalos, explained that visitors to the cafeteria became much more vocal about the lack of options.

“[The demand] it’s growing. So we are just noticing it more and more [and] before we weren’t able to handle that because it was only one or two people, ” Avalos explained. “I can’t just cook for one or two people.”

The options are created by a dietitian who works for the school’s food service provider, Sodexo. Some of their “plant-based” and pescatarian offerings have included  Spanish Grilled Salmon, and Marinated Portbello with Quinoa Pilaf.

Spanish Grilled Salmon is amongst the few pescatarian options available in the cafeteria. Photo by Carla Wilson
Marinated Portobello with Quinoa Pilaf is amongst the few plant-based options available in the cafeteria. Photo by Carla Wilson

For some students and faculty members, the school cafeteria offering plant-based options is a good step towards fighting climate change and decreasing the amount of harm done against animals.

Tyler Wagner is one of those students.  “I think if people aim to make the world a better place, the first place they should look is at themselves and where they are causing the most amount of harm,”  Wagner explained. “For most people, unless they’re into some really shady stuff, the most harm they are causing, by far, is on animals.”

Wagner talks about what step he thinks the school’s cafeteria should take next. He hopes that in the future the school will take a step similar to Goldsmiths University in London. Goldsmiths University has banned the sale of beef on their campus to help fight climate change.

The offering of vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian options has sparked an interest in students and  faculty members who aren’t plant-based but see plant-based options as a good healthy eating option.

According to Avalos, the response to the plant-based option has been “50/50”. However, the cafeteria is still selling the same amount of entrees as they did when there were meat options.

The school cafeteria plans to take more steps to provide additional plant-based options. Avalos said that the cafeteria is considering getting the “Impossible Burger” which is a plant-based burger.

“The price really determines whether we should carry it or not. And right now the plant-based options are at the highest price for purchasing,” Avalos added. “So we have to keep that in mind as well.”