Liberty University recently became the first Sodexo location to introduce an exclusively gluten-free and plant-forward retail concept on a college campus. It’s called The Hungry Herbivore and it replaces a previous, definitely not plant-forward or gluten-free concept called South Street Cheesesteaks in a space in the Tilley Student Center.
According to District Chef Sarah Falls, there has been a huge demand for gluten-free and plant-forward food that allows students with dietary restrictions the opportunity to have items specifically designed for them that are fun, delicious, and unique.
“Based on my nationwide research, there are limited restaurants that solely focus on gluten-free and plant-forward as it is extremely difficult to do,” Falls says. “We are always striving to come up with innovative concepts which originate at Liberty University.”
The Hungry Herbivore provides a convenient, one-stop outlet for getting plant-forward and gluten free meals. When a gluten-free meal is prepared at one of the other campus retail concepts, the Sodexo team member needs to leave the main food line, change gloves and prep the meal separately to avoid cross-contamination. The Hungry Herbivore reduces student wait time, and team members do not need to take extra precautions since everything is already gluten-free and the space features its own kitchen and refrigeration, making it an optimal location for the concept.
“We’ve created a space where gluten-free and vegan students can bring friends for an enjoyable meal,” offers Abraham Zahabi, general manager of retail.
“Many students who are gluten-free had expressed they didn’t get to use their meal plan swipes like everyone else, even with our robust Gluten Intolerant Options (GIO) program,” adds District Manager Duke Davis. “We heard the same from students who are vegan and vegetarian.”
Not that South Street Cheesesteaks didn’t have its own fans…
“It was a hard decision because many students loved the cheesesteak concept, but we felt a greater demand to provide more food options for students with dietary restrictions,” Davis explains.
The menu features vegan burgers, vegan eggs, potato patty melts, nachos, meatball marinara pasta bowls and chili fry bowls, with vegan cheese options and fresh condiments.
Sodexo has set a company-wide goal to have 42% of all campus menu offerings plant-based by 2025, so The Hungry Herbivore makes a great contribution to that goal.
“We’ve already received some great feedback that we’ve been incorporating or are working on right now,” Zahabi says. “For instance, we’ve heard that the portion size of the Cheesy Garlic Melt is a bit small, so we’re working on that.”
Here’s a look at the Hungry Herbivore and its menu…