By Joe Bailey
The Students’ Association of Vegan and Vegetarian Youth is really blossoming. Thanks to the leadership of two students, Melody Jaros ’14 and Simone Arnold ’16, the group played a pivotal activist role in the ‘A’ rating given to University Dining by PETA. Overall, SAVVY takes a holistic approach to well-being, with a comprehensive view of providing good nutrition through vegan or vegetarian choices according to Jaros, the group’s dining representative. Jaros was President of SAVVY last year the dining rep since her freshman year. Jaros aims to “convert people through food.” She worked closely with Dining Services to assure that they were able to meet the guidelines set by PETA and in her view, the collaboration has been a successful one. The university met nine of ten criteria, Meatless Mondays being one of these requirements. Perhaps the greatest difficulty faced by a vegan student eating on campus is the limited menu provided by Wilson Commons, for those on low-declining option meal plans. However, every Meatless Monday, these students can use their declining to get all they can eat on a healthy vegan diet.
In addition to holding weekly meetings, SAVVY holds two main events annually: the 30 day veg challenge in the fall and Meat-Out in the spring. At their meetings, this vegan/vegetarian club often hosts nutritionists as well as proponents of veganism and vegan awareness. In addition to Meatless Mondays, SAVVY works closely with Dining to raise awareness of the veg challenge and the various vegan and vegetarian options available to students on campus. One of the biggest challenges to convenient vegan options is providing non-dairy alternatives to milk & cheese, often accomplished by using almond, soy, or rice milk instead. In fact, this reporter sat down with Melody, and found out how milk is extracted from an almond. It’s actually rather simple: first, the crushed almonds are soaked in water, and then they’re pressed through cheesecloth. In spite of some difficulties faced by those on declining meal plans, SAVVY maintains that it is quite possible to obtain a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet here on campus.
Jaros and Arnold, the group’s current President, were not always vegan. Jaros, like many vegans, made the gradual transition over the course of a few months after realizing the only meat she’d been eating was the ham in her favorite split-pea soup.
Arnold has been a vegan for over a year, after completing her own “30 day challenge.” She has a wide range of motives for making this shift, including her opposition to the animal-agricultural industry, as well being a pacifist, and what she learned in an ethics course taken here at the U of R. The change also came as a result of a new perspective her boyfriend gained abroad, after seeing a traditional slaughter. In a show of sympathy for his newfound vegetarian sensibilities, Simone decided to become a vegetarian for 30 days, transitioning to veganism fully over the course of the next few months.
Arnold also sits on the Pollination Project’s youth panel, a nonprofit organization that seeks to reach out to well-planned, passionate volunteers who need seed money for their operations. As a member of this committee, she will direct significant block grants to various sustainable social justice outreach organizations. Some criteria for obtaining these funds are: impacting large numbers of youth, having raised some of their own funds already, and having goals of realistic size and scope.
Whether it’s Meatless Monday, the veg challenge, or the next decision of the Pollination Project, SAVVY attitudes are really blossoming at the U of R!