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Students Petition To Reinstate Lunch Program

by Lindsey Morgan, DAILY BRUIN

Posted February 21, 2006

One option for the UCLA community to eat vegetarian lunches on campus came to an abrupt end last week when a lunch program put on by a Hare Krishna monk was shut down by campus administration for violating California law.

But student demand for the food provided through the Bhakti Yoga Club by Nama Kirtan das, a monk of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, hasn't left the premises.

The program was suspended by campus administrators who, after reading a Daily Bruin article on the program, determined the biweekly sale of food by the Bhakti Yoga Club was illegal under state law.

Since the suspension of the lunch program, over 50 students and staff members have signed a petition asking for the program to be allowed to return to campus. Many with dietary restrictions saw the lunches as one of just a few options for nutritious, inexpensive food on campus.

The petition has not yet been passed on to campus administrators, but the statement of support is unlikely to usher in the program's return.

According to a Feb. 2 e-mail sent by Steve Fuller of the UCLA Office of Environment, Health and Safety, to student groups in California, such as the Bhakti Yoga Club, fall under the Nonprofit Charitable Temporary Food Facilities category. Under this classification, student groups are allowed to hold food sales only four times per year.

Some of those who signed the petition, including Dwight Norton, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, said he does not particularly care about the technicalities.

Although Norton is not a strict vegetarian, he said he enjoyed the tasty, nutritious vegetarian dishes served by Kirtan das several times each month.

Norton and his friends signed the petition because they believe Kirtan das provided an important service to the campus, he said.

"The stuff that he provides - there's no other option on campus in terms of vegetarian, quality and cost," he said.

The nutritional value of the vegetarian food on campus was an issue also raised by fifth-year biology student Milind Joshi, president of the Bhakti Yoga Club.

Citing the low-protein content of the vegetarian options on campus, food allergies and a lack of choices for those averse to eating food cooked in the same pan as meat, Joshi said the lunches served by the club were the only viable on-campus food option for some people.

Joshi said the campus vegetarian menu is limited, and the current situation only exacerbates the problem.

"How many months can I eat Gardenburger, veggie pizza or veggie burrito before I get tired of it?" Joshi wrote in an e-mail.

But the widespread impression students have about a lack of variety in the vegetarian menus of campus restaurants is generally incorrect, said Cindy Bolton, associate director of food service for Associated Students UCLA restaurants.

"I recognize that there is a perception out there that we don't have very many vegetarian options, but we actually do," Bolton said.

ASUCLA currently offers vegetarian options in almost every one of its restaurants, Bolton said, noting that the feeling students have about the lack of vegetarian menu items stems mostly from a need on the part of the restaurants to market those items more effectively.

In an effort to provide students with even more options, the salad bar in the Cooperage on the first floor of Ackerman Union is going to be remodeled and replaced with the Greenhouse - a health-food bar featuring fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, soups and possibly a baked-potato bar, Bolton said.

The Greenhouse will probably be put into operation sometime around spring quarter, Bolton said.

Click Here for the article in The Daily Bruin.