UNT Dining Services tops peta2 Vegan Report Card for fifth straight year

temp-post-imageThe University of North Texas (UNT) continues to be recognized as a leader in vegan dining on college campuses. Thanks to the overwhelming success of Mean Greens Café – the nation’s first all-vegan collegiate dining hall – and other initiatives on campus, UNT has earned an “A+” rating as well as Dean’s List status from peta2 for the fifth consecutive year. The animal advocacy group released its 2018 Vegan Report Card on Oct. 1.

“It’s a big honor,” said Peter Balabuch, Director of Resident Dining. “It’s great to be recognized with an A+ rating on the Vegan Report Card. But ultimately, our goal is to make sure the UNT community is highly satisfied with our food and service.”

UNT is one of only four institutions in the state of Texas to earn an “A+” rating. Just 199 schools out of 1,510 that were rated nationwide received the Dean’s List honor.

UNT initially earned an “A” grade, the highest rating available at the time, in peta2’s first Vegan Report Card in 2013. Since then, the college has earned Dean’s List recognition and an “A+” rating over the last five years (2014-18).

Mean Greens Café Chef/General Manager Matthew Ward is proud of his facility’s achievement and realizes the high standard of excellence necessary to be recognized year after year.

“We take great pride in being recognized as one of the leading universities serving vegan cuisine to our student population,” said Ward. “With PETA being the leading advocate for the vegan movement, we know that it’s not without strict guidelines that they give out their ratings.”

The annual Vegan Report Card grades schools on such criteria as the number of clearly labeled vegan food items at every meal, the presence of any dedicated vegan dining stations or dining halls, and the availability of vegan milks and desserts, among others.

Mean Greens Café easily covers all the requirements by peta2 to earn the group’s top ranking. But the university offers even more to students wanting to eat vegan on campus. UNT’s four other cafeterias serve up vegan dishes daily while Bruce Cafeteria has its own dedicated vegan bar with a wide variety of choices at lunch. At the centrally-located University Union, students can choose from 30+ vegan/vegetarian food items from its retail outlets while annual campus-wide cookouts include vegan entrées as well.

According to peta2, surveys by food service providers have shown that the number of vegetarian college students has risen by more than 50 percent nationwide over the past decade and that the number of vegan students has more than doubled over that period.

Balabuch says students arrive at UNT with a more open mind towards their food choices and are looking for healthy options.

“Students today are coming to school with far greater exposure to different foods and cuisines,” Balabuch said. “At Mean Greens, students have the opportunity to try some different plant-forward foods they may not have eaten before.”

The shift in attitude by students on campus has led to a boom in business. Ward has seen a noticeable increase in patrons at Mean Greens Café this semester and says the facility is serving 20 percent more customers at this time compared to last fall.

“We’ve had a great start to the semester so we’ve developed somewhat of a following on campus and with the general public,” Ward said. “We’ve been reviewed by a few food critics in the surrounding areas, so the word is out on what we are doing here.”

Ward noted seasonal menu changes as well as increasing special events at the hall as some of the leading factors to the increased patronage.

“We introduced live entertainment on Thursday nights which has become a great addition to our dinner events,” said Ward. “We also started a student artist showcase where we highlight an art student every two months by allowing them to paint a mural on the front glass area near our serving lines.”

The dining facility has been featured prominently in the media as of late. Recently, Mean Greens appeared in online publications such as Insider, Food Management, and On-Campus Hospitality. Regionally, it was the subject of a segment on the CBS 11 DFW News and was recently proclaimed “the best vegan dining experience in North Texas” in a review by CultureMap Dallas.

Mean Greens Café also played a factor in UNT earning the No. 2 ranking in Delish.com’s recent “The 30 Colleges With The Best Campus Food You’ve Ever Seen” list.

“The food speaks for itself,” said Ward on Mean Greens’ rising status. “We have a talented crew of dedicated culinarians, led by operations chef Cristopher Williams, that takes pride in producing the highest quality food. We also try to make the dining hall a place for students to gather, enjoy a meal, and have fun.”

The 2018 Vegan Report Card can be viewed online at https://www.peta2.com/feature/vegan-college-ranking/browse-the-list/.

About UNT Dining Services
UNT Dining is the largest self-supported food service department in North Texas. With our 22 retail food shops, five cafeterias, an upscale dining restaurant, and a catering department, we serve nearly five million meals annually. Our food service program is award-winning and has been recognized nationally by organizations like Food Service Director Magazine, Physician’s Council for Responsible Medicine, and PETA. We are also the recipient of the prestigious Loyal E. Horton Award from the National Association of College and University Food Services. In 2011, Mean Greens Café opened as the first all-vegan university dining hall in the country. For more information, visit http://www.dining.unt.edu.