On move-in day freshman year, I decided to take on veganism. Ever since, I’ve been so bad at sticking to it that I call myself a fake vegan. I’ve been asked plenty of times why I even bother with the label in this case, and the answer is always the same: hope. The label gives me hope that someday I can be a better vegan.

Even when I’m being a bad vegan though, I am always a vegetarian, so I still have some significant dietary restrictions to deal with. Factor in my rather high level of pickiness, my friends always wonder how I don’t end up ordering off UberEats for every single one of my meals. So how do I do it? How does someone with dietary restrictions and / or a high level of pickiness deal with the dining hall food in college? It’s simple and fun: you get creative.

Every Wednesday morning, there’s a farmer’s market on McCarthy Quad (the quad where all the freshman dorms are). It’s a really convenient way to purchase fruits and other food that you cannot get in the dining halls. I personally love the Mom’s Products mediterranean food stand. They sell some of the most delicious hummus I’ve ever had and some pita bread to go with it. They also sell falafel sandwiches and other delicious snacks. Everything is very reasonably priced (any 3 items for $10), and the food usually lasts a week or two in your fridge.

If you don’t want to purchase an entire meal at a stand and would prefer to make use of your unlimited meal swipes, a great way to spruce up the dining hall food is to mix and match. After I got a little tired of the typical vegan options that can get a little repetitive, I kind of turned EVK (the dining hall next to my dorm in McCarthy) into my own personal kitchen. I brought in some delicious Kale Almond hummus from Mom’s Products and made myself a delectable sandwich using the vegetables in the salad bar and the bread in EVK.

The EVK salad bar

The farmer’s market has so many booths like Mom’s Products that can help you get creative in the dining halls. If you’re a freshman living in the dorms required to purchase a meal plan, you can also opt for the Gold Meal Plan. It gives you $500 of dining dollars for an extra $200 over the basic meal plan, so you can more than make up the extra cost as long as you spend most of your dining dollars. Dining dollars can be used at most on-campus locations, like Nekter (the love of my life), The Habit (can never go wrong with one of their burgers), Panda Express, and Starbucks (the black hole all my dining dollars always disappear into).

Figuring out what you’re going to eat and making the dining hall food taste good can be a really fun process. On days I plan to kitchen up EVK, I can’t wait to get down there. On other days, my pursuit of food somewhere on campus has helped me discover some of my favorite campus hang-out and study spots. So even if you’re the pickiest eater in the world and you’re super worried about how you’re going to find food in college, don’t be! Eating can be fun, exciting, and another way to think outside the box.

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