Several Canadian universities are introducing more plant-based food in their dining halls because of ongoing demand from students for more variety, increased concern about the impact of food in the current global crises, and a push toward more sustainable and ethical practices.

Western University in Ontario set a goal of having a 40% plant-based menu at all its dining halls in 2024, but it already achieved this in 2023. A fully vegan eatery will open this year, and the school wants to reach a 50% target of vegan options in 2025.

At the University of British Columbia (UBC), 55% of the food in dining halls is already plant-based, and the Vancouver school hopes to reach 80% by 2025, the same year Concordia University in Montreal plans to reduce its purchase of meat, dairy and eggs by 30%. Dalhousie University in Halifax aims to at least 50% food options by 2030, and the University of Toronto’s food services now offer 61% to its students.

Concerns about the environment and the current climate crises seem to have been one of the most important factors for these changes. A 2021 study by Xiaoming Xu and collaborators estimated that animal-based products represented almost half of total food-related greenhouse gas emissions globally, about twice as much as plant-based products. Colin Porter, director of hospitality services at Western University, said to CBC that studies like this encouraged the school to take action. At UBC, a 2021 climate action plan found that food consumed on campus was the second-largest contributor to the university’s extended greenhouse gas emissions. Both UBC and Western teamed up with chefs who specialise in plant-based food to learn recipes and bridge the knowledge gap of cooking without meat, dairy, and eggs caused by a carnist educational system.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.