A place where Vegans meet


Caitlin Applin

Thomas Streeter and Peggy Edwards peeling a cucumber at a Vegan Cooking Club meeting

Last semester, a group of vegans banned together to create the new Vegan Cooking Club. Now, they meet once a month to discuss, cook and eat vegan recipes as a group.

The organizers of the club were impressed to see that Sodexo already provided a full section of food that was vegan and gluten free. With these options already popular for students on campus, Caitlin Applin knew there would be enough people interested in starting a new club based on vegan food.

“The fact that we had a whole section of food that was vegan and gluten free meant to me that Johnson had a significant number of students who ate vegan food every day, and I thought I could bring these people together and make it mean something,” said Applin.

For a new club, the Vegan Cooking Club has met the requirements that the Student Government Association has in place for all clubs including monthly meetings and attending all club fairs. Their success has impressed SGA members including Brittney Malik, who is the director of clubs for the SGA.
“The Vegan [Cooking] Club started from nothing,” said Malik. “They only just became a club last semester, but they hit the ground running. We get a lot of new clubs each semester, and they usually have a hard time getting off the ground, but that wasn’t the case with the Vegan Cooking Club.”

Applin started to build the club by working closely with Sodexo employee Peggy Edwards, who is the vegan chef on campus. Edwards then started to reach out to other students who were interested in the possible club.

“She started talking to more of the people who came by her station every day and found other vegans and vegetarians, even just students curious about it. We could tell we had enough people interested to get something going,” said Applin.

Edwards, who is a vegan herself, is the club’s advisor and cooks with them at every meeting along with teaching the group tips to improve their cooking skills.

“There have been quite a few things I have learned so far. I have been introduced to a bunch of new ingredients and a handful of tips and tricks that are important to know when cooking and baking vegan that I had never even heard of before,” said Applin.

During the club approval process, there were some initial concerns about a Sodexo employee acting as a club advisor because the college does not directly employ them, and that partnership had never been done before.

“We were worried about the collaboration between the club and Sodexo, but after meeting with Edwards and hearing the goals she had for the club, I knew that the club would grow to be something great,” said Malik.

Edwards’s dedication to the club is clearly shown, and anyone who attends lunch at the college will see Edwards serving up her vegan dishes and enthusiastically inviting students and staff members to the club’s events.

“I love working with this club. It’s the best part of my job,” said Edwards.

Currently, the club has 10 members who are working closely with Sodexo and cooking every month with Edwards. The club has been able to gain more control over what they are eating and have even made a difference when it comes to what Sodexo serves during mealtimes.

“The club has made it easier for us to talk to the people in charge of what we are eating,” said Applin. “We have been able to make a lot of suggestions and tell them what we like, and so far we have seen a lot of changes to what vegans and gluten-free students here are able to eat. More desserts, salad dressings and toppings such as nutritional yeast and gluten free croutons. Tom does like to make sure all the students know that if you write anything down and give it to them, they do take all suggestions into consideration.”

The club is preparing for a dinner that they will be hosting in April, and during every meeting, they practice cooking one dish that they will serve and discuss what they may change in the future.

“One of the first things we made was barbecued jackfruit, and when you sauté it, it has the same texture as pulled pork, and it’s delicious but also doesn’t remind you of meat. We are going to use it in one of the appetizers, and I can’t wait for everyone to try it,” said Applin.

The next meetings for the club will be March 18, March 25, April 15 and April 19 at 10 a.m. in the kitchen in Stearns. Applin encourages anyone to show up ready to cook no matter their experience level. The club is also looking for anyone who is interested in volunteering to serve food at the event on April 27 at 5 p.m.

“We are holding our first dinner to raise money for the North Country Animal League,” said Applin. “Not only is this full course meal 100 percent vegan and gluten free, but we are also doing it almost completely waste free. So basically everything you are served will be edible down to the silverware and cups.

“Tickets cost 15 dollars per person, but students with a meal plan are free. The event will be held in the Stearns performance space, so tickets are limited and sold on a first come first serve basis.”

Tickets for the event will go on sale in March, and club members will be selling tickets in Stearns. Students or community members interested in the event can also contact Caitlin Applin through her JSC email, [email protected]

“It’s great to see that people are excited about what we are doing. I never imagined so many people to be talking about it or interested in the event, and now it’s almost overwhelming to see how much this is doing,” said Applin.