Itâ€™s like March Madness for health nuts.
This month, college students across the U.S. and Canada can fill out brackets on PETAâ€™s website and crown Americaâ€™s most vegan-friendly university.
For the first time, CSU has made the tournament.
â€œItâ€™s easy to get people excited about football,â€ said Deon Lategan, the Director of Residential Dining at CSU. â€œBut itâ€™s not so easy to get them excited about vegans.â€
For the past five years, PETA2, the college specific department of the organization, has evaluated universities across the country and determined which universities have the most vegan friendly dining options.
PETA2 then selects the best from this list, putting them in contention to be voted â€œAmericaâ€™s Most Vegan Friendly University.â€
â€œWe are honored to have been recognized by PETA for doing something positive,â€ Lategan said. â€œWe really do try to give all of our students diverse dining options.â€
A vocal minority of CSU students, Lategan said, have advocated over the years to extend CSUâ€™s vegan and vegetarian friendly dining options.
To facilitate this growing need, Brittney Stuard, CSUâ€™s dietician and student employment coordinator, hosts weekly meetings, called â€œVegginâ€™ Out,â€ with CSUâ€™s growing vegan and vegetarian community.
The Facebook group for CSUâ€™s vegetarian organization, the Coalition for Animal Advocacy, has even swelled to 67 members.
â€œThe health benefits of being a vegan come from the entirely earth-based diet,â€ Stuard said. â€œBut a lot of students choose veganism because it promotes the humane treatment of animals, and is more eco-friendly.â€
Ryan Huling, the marketing director of PETA2, agrees with this sentiment and has high hopes for CSU in the tournament.
â€œCSU has amazing menu options and really stands out in the crowd,â€ Huling said. â€œItâ€™s great for us to see colleges really making an effort to make earth-based diets more mainstream.â€
CSU is set to face off against the University of Montana Grizzlies in the first round, and wonâ€™t meet CU-Boulder until the Sweet Sixteen, or the third round of the competition.
Among numerous other options, CSU offers pita falafels, vegan burritos and quinoa edamame salad to vegan diners. Lategan said these options are expected to expand even further in the future.
â€œFor a lot of students, very flexible dining plans that cater to lots of lifestyles play a huge role in where they go to college,â€ Lategan said. â€œSo weâ€™re always working to become more and more accommodating.â€
Outdoor Life Beat Reporter Allison Sylte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.