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Tofu or Not Tofu

That is the question. The answer is found in new plant-based offerings on campus

When students started requesting plant-based meal options, Joe Pina, executive chef with Sodexo, saw an opportunity to get creative and produce a new menu, one that is now being used in universities across the country.

“We were the first university services location in the United States that formulated a plant-based catering program,” Pina said. “We basically created a template that going forward all of our (Sodexo) locations will use throughout the nation.”

Sodexo is the food service used by BSU.

Standard vegetarian and vegan options have always been offered at Bridgewater, but Pina and his team decided it was time to ramp things up.

“We realized the vegetarian and vegan options weren’t that creative, so we wanted to offer food that is more fun and exciting, and create more choices,” said Christine Hubbard, Sodexo retail operations manager.

Making sure students receive meals that meet their dietary needs is always a top priority.

“We wanted to level the playing field, to make everyone feel inclusive about the food we offer in the dining halls and our catering programs,” Pina said.

He and his staff began adding new menu items, such as a chocolate coconut quinoa cake and lemon blueberry squares. They use vegan-based eggs, organic sugar, vegan chocolate chips and even pureed tofu to make the delectable desserts.

“They are really good, if someone didn’t tell you they were vegan, you wouldn’t know the difference,” Pina said.

Sodexo took notice of Bridgewater’s efforts to bring more plant-based options to campus and created Rustic Roots, a new food station located in the East Campus Commons that offers vegan and vegetarian dishes based on Pina’s plant-based recipes.

“It’s really cool knowing we built these recipes, that people are trying them, and they are now being welcomed on campus and at other universities,” Pina said.

Plant-based foods can also contribute to better health, Hubbard said.

“Plant-based diets have been known to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and are just better for your overall health,” she said. “You don’t have to go completely plant based or vegan, even swapping one or two meals a week makes a huge difference.”

It’s not just healthier bodies that plant-based diets benefit, they also help the planet.

“It is better for the environment in general. Meat uses more water and energy to produce,” Hubbard said.

When students return to campus this fall, the hope is they will visit the Rustic Roots station and try one of the new menu items.

“We are hoping to really take the stigma away that says tofu and plants aren’t tasty,” Pina said. “You can have fresh flavors and it can taste good. It’s healthier for you and you can have a much more balanced diet by trying new things.”

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