You Better “Be-Leaf” It: Students and Faculty Adopt Plant-Based Eating

Several members of the Andover community are trying out vegetarianism or veganism for a variety of reasons, including animal ethics and waste reduction.

MJ Engel ’13, Teaching Fellow in English, became vegetarian 11 years ago. Engel decided to become vegan after learning more about the dairy industry.

“When I was in ninth grade, that was when I was a student [at Andover], I had read ‘Fast Food Nation,’ and my takeaway from reading that was that one of the most influential things that a person can do to mitigate climate change is changing your diet to be more plant-based,” said Engel.

Sam Baxter-Bray ’20 began a plant-based diet upon considering both the moral and environmental impacts of eating meat. After going vegetarian in ninth grade, Baxter-Bray learned more about the concerns associated with not only commercial meat production but also the farming of dairy and eggs.

“[I originally went vegetarian] largely because of the moral implications of eating dead animals that could feel pain and an array of different emotions. I went vegan at the end of [Lower Year] because I realized that the dairy and egg industries were in some cases as cruel or crueler than that of the meat industry. Although the ethical side was the original push for me, environmental reasons have played a huge role as well. The single largest thing an individual can do to cut their emissions is cutting out animal products,” said Baxter-Bray.

Liu Rothschild ’20 decided to go vegan after doing personal research on the subject. Rothschild has been vegan for over a year now and has been working with Agatha Kip, Nutritionist and Registered Dietician, to provide more plant-based menu options in Paresky Commons.

“I was connected to the process growing up on a farm in Maine, and after being exposed to documentaries and doing health research, I realized I should give it a try. Once you get used to it, it’s really not that hard, especially at Commons where it’s all you can eat,” said Rothschild.

Engel has been pleasantly surprised with the expansion of plant-based options upon her return to campus as a faculty member. Although she is satisfied with the vegan and vegetarian selections, Engel hopes to find more options in the dessert and dinner choices.

“I’m actually very happy with [Paresky] offerings right now. I think sometimes, it can get a little repetitive for dinner, but the salad bar is awesome. There’s always tofu stir fry. I do wish they had more vegan desserts because I love dessert and I would really like to have cookies or cupcakes or something like that,” said Engel.

Baxter-Bray added, “Commons is not great at accommodating plant-based eating, but it is getting better and easier all the time. Outside of [Paresky], Andover has some pretty good vegan options, and Boston, of course, is loaded with options.”

Kip expressed her interest in expanding plant-based options at Paresky. She cited the influence of Menus of Change, an initiative by the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which is working to establish a new agenda for the foodservice industry.

“Plant-based menu options, which are nutrient-dense as well as delicious, have been a long-time topic of interest to me as well as to our colleagues at Paresky. Through years of collaboration, we have embraced many aspects of the Menus of Change guiding principles,” wrote Kip in an email to The Phillipian.

Rothschild sees a bright future for plant-based eating, which he hopes will help address issues associated with personal health and the environment.

“[Plant-based eating] is growing and it’s not going to stop. Game Changers recently blew up—it’s about professional and Olympic athletes who are vegan and attribute that change as a part of their success. Developed countries like the U.S. have increased rates of heart disease and diabetes, and I see plant-based eating as able to solve the health and environmental crisis we face,” said Rothschild.

According to Engel, while becoming vegan might seem like a drastic dietary change, she thinks it is a plausible option for anyone who works at it.

Engel said, “It really just depends on you and your body, because some people do need to take more supplements to make sure they’re getting enough protein and all of that, but I think that it is definitely possible.”