Everyday is meatless with new vegan club

Sarah Brewington | News Editor | The USD Vista


President of SVU, Leah Wargo. Photo courtesy of Leah Wargo

President of SVU, Leah Wargo. Photo courtesy of Leah Wargo

Dairy, meat, and eggs are just a few of the foods that vegans choose to exclude from their diet.

A salad garnished with cheese is what junior, Leah Wargo received at a student organization conference last year. Wargo is a vegan and was disappointed to discover the lack of awareness about veganism on her college campus. Wargo discovered that the University of San Diego knew little about what it means to be vegan.

Wargo, determined to raise awareness, started the club Student Vegans United (SVU) to raise awareness about veganism on campus.

“SVU began as a side effect of the irritation I felt at a certain conference for student organizations on campus,” Wargo said. “The registration form asked me if I had any dietary restrictions so I noted that I was vegan and decided not to elaborate because anyone at USD should know what vegan is, right? So they provided me with a lovely salad for dinner, but here’s the kicker: the salad had cheese on it. It was then that I realized that I had been overestimating the knowledge about veganism within the USD community.”

Wargo explained that her goal in starting SVU was not only to raise awareness about veganism but to also educate students about a sustainable choice in their diets.

“I hope to raise an awareness of veganism and educate students about ethical eating on campus as well as build on one of the reasons for becoming vegan: sustainability,” Wargo said. “I especially hope to provide a resource for vegans who are living on campus and are worried about not being able to sustain their lifestyle in college. I also hope that I can visit the campus a few years from now and still see an active SVU organization.”

As Wargo continues through her semester, she hopes SVU will partner with other organizations promote the efforts of her club. Wargo is publicizing her new club at events like Changemaker Fest where she hopes to make students conscious of their food intake and the effect their diets have on the environment.

Wargo knows that converting to veganism is not an easy option for all students, as she herself struggled to give up certain foods when she first decided to adopt a vegan diet.

“During my senior year of high school I had done some research into vegetarianism and decided that it would be the most ethical choice for me to make, but had some difficulty doing so while staying at home,” Wargo said.

Wargo explained that she decided to alter her diet when she came to college.

“When I came to USD, I found that I had the freedom to make my own choices and the first one was going to be the easiest one: deciding what to put into my body,” Wargo said. “I gave up meat, including fish, and eggs and continued to research the lifestyle. The benefits of going full vegan convinced me to cut out dairy and honey that December while I was home with my family, and I haven’t looked back since. Well, maybe once or twice. Milk was a hard one for me to give up.”

Wargo encourages students at USD who are vegan or who take an interest in being vegan to consider joining at her club. Wargo promises plenty of food options and advice, as she herself cooks her own meals.

“I enjoy cooking for myself but I enjoy cooking for others more, and I have found that being vegan has broadened my culinary horizons,” Wargo said. “I have created things in the kitchen that I might not have had if I’d been simply grilling a burger patty or pan searing a fish fillet.”

As SVU gains footing, Wargo hopes that she can share her dishes with her club members. Wargo explained that she cooks a variety of food for herself, crafting vegetables in new ways and using flax seeds as a substitute for eggs. She finds that her diet allows for much creativity.

“I have made lots of things in my kitchen from pasta and fresh tomato sauce to cauliflower crust pizza,” Wargo said. “I do have a Ninja [food processor] so I like to utilize that for breakfast smoothies, banana ice cream, thicker soups, or flax-seed. I have also baked plenty of fries, sweet potato and yukon, spaghetti squash, cauliflower steaks, and curried vegetables. And of course, I love fresh salads.”

Wargo even used her culinary expertise at Blue Spoon, the frozen yogurt and smoothie hot spot outside of Frank’s Lounge. One evening last year, she created a smoothie with kale, lime juice and various other ingredients that impressed her supervisor. Her smoothie is called Leah’s Special and now graces the menu in Blue Spoon as a vegan smoothie option for all students and USD community members to sample.

“My goal is to reach a good amount of the student population through dining initiatives and signs and just our presence on campus about ethical eating and sustainability,” Wargo said. “There is so much to be done before we can truly call ourselves a green campus, and I think that educating the students is key to turning talk into progress.”

While Wargo still has to determine when her weekly meetings will take place, she hopes that with SVU’s growing presence she will have a club that surpasses her own time at USD.