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.