Med students push for default veg option
Some vegetarian medical students at Stanford Medical School were frustrated recently, when they attended their White Coat ceremony where they are given a white coat and a stethoscope, to find that all the vegetarian options were already taken. This is evidently a frequent occurrence. Throughout their first year of medical school, they found that food options for vegetarians were in short supply at lunchtime and dinner seminars, orientations, club meetings etc. The impact on them is that they feel their cultural and moral values are not recognized and they are not able to reduce their impact on the environment.
They expressed their frustration in an article in the Stanford Daily, pointing out that Stanford is already doing a lot to address climate change with its electric shuttle buses, eco-friendly cleaning solutions and departmental carbon emission goals. But the university is not taking the same climate conscious approach when it comes to food. They point out that the UN IPCC report indicates that we could reduce greenhouse emissions by 22% of total emissions if everyone stopped eating meat. Other points they made included that plant-based meals are typically cheaper than meat-based meals and would save money for Stanford if implemented at scale. Plant-based meals are also more inclusive because non-vegetarians can typically eat vegetarian, but not the other way around. Indeed, the shortage of vegetarian meals at the White Coat Ceremony happened because non-vegetarians chose the vegetarian option, leaving insufficient meals for the vegetarians.
The students’ proposal is to make vegetarian meals the default, and to have the requirement that non-vegetarian meals are explicitly requested. This would help nudge everyone toward choosing the more environmentally friendly option. Several specific departments at Stanford, including the Law School, the School of Earth Sciences, and the Business School, are already vegetarian by default. These medical students encourage Stanford to aim for a campus environment that is sustainable, inclusive and tasty for all students, by making plant-based meals the default option.