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Kosher-StudentsEating.jpg Tufts University Dining
Dishes in the introductory menu feature familiar flavors.

Tufts University rolls out vegan kosher line

Replacing vegetarian station, it is designed to be more inclusive.

A new food line at Tufts University fills what had been a missing link in the college’s dining services: how to make kosher choices available in a convenient location. Introduced at the beginning of the fall 2022 term, the Beans, Greens and Grains platform is a fusion of vegan and kosher items.

Kosher food has been available on the Medford, Mass., campus since about 10 years ago, when a campus convenience store was converted into a kosher deli. But Tufts Dining director Patti Klos says the goal has been to integrate kosher dining into one of the school’s residential dining centers, where students take most of their meals in a marketplace-style setting. While a full meat and dairy kosher offering would require a separate production area, Rabbi Naftali Brawer, executive director of Tufts Hillel and the school’s Jewish chaplain, suggested a plant-based platform.

Tufts University DiningKosher-VG_Cutlet_Parmesan_w__Whole_Wheat_Pasta_2.jpg

Kosher-vegan cutlet Parmesan with whole wheat pasta.

“Knowing that the ingredients were all plants meant that while there were kosher laws that had to be followed, it was simpler,” Klos says. The revamped platform took the place of a vegetarian station with the same name.

Kosher-Red_Pepper_Tofu_with_Walnut_Pesto_sm.jpgPhoto: Kosher red pepper tofu with walnut pesto.

Credit: Tufts University Dining

Rabbi Brawer and a Rhode Island koshering authority, Lighthouse Kosher, provide guidance on the menus, ingredient sourcing and production. Onsite, a crew of student mashgiachim oversees production and service to guard against cross contamination and ensure kosher laws are followed in terms of both the food items and the cooking and service pieces. Lead employees handle prep, sometimes with help from the mashgiachim.

Beans, Greens and Grains is the latest step in Tufts Dining’s approach to creating a more inclusive dining experience. The All-9 Free station in the same dining facility serves dishes free of the nine most common food allergens. Another dining center was reinvented to avoid tree nuts, peanuts and gluten; halal meats are served there as well. In addition, if an individual student has complex dietary needs that aren’t addressed by the choices offered, kitchens are equipped with a designated area to meet their needs.

Launching the kosher vegan platform has been a journey. Covid emptied the campus, and when students did return, the dining services menu was limited. At that time students gravitated toward comfort foods, and supply chain hiccups were complicating a more robust variety of foods. Some ingredients end up being sourced separately to ensure they meet kosher restrictions; to avoid insects in foods, for instance, produce might be ordered already processed to make it easier to inspect. Cookware and utensils are aggregated and washed separately in a fresh dishwasher.

The menu, which is still evolving, is a mix of grain bowls, rice and bean dishes. Popular traditional items such as General Tso’s Chicken are reinvented using plant substitutes such as tofu. The menu does not lean on convenience ingredients, such as mock meats.

Kosher-Bean_Burrito_with_Salsa_Roja_sm.jpgPhoto: Kosher bean burrito with salsa roja.

Credit: Tufts University Dining

The initial choices have stressed more familiar flavors. But as the platform picks up steam and serves more meals Klos, says it will evolve. The Tufts Dining team is experimenting with more legume-based dishes that reflect diverse regions. Items like pickled and roasted vegetables and “meat” made from tempeh are under consideration, as are some salad dressings offered by local producers. A broader dinner offering is also in the works.

“The students tend to like build-your-own grain bowls and buy them at our other locations,” Klos says. “Once they discover we have them, if they’re savvy to the grain bowl setup, they make a beeline over there.”

Vegan—kosher or not--remains a hard sell, but Klos is committed. With more students returning after Covid restrictions, she says the department is working to promote the kosher vegan station both to distribute traffic throughout the dining center and to encourage healthy eating habits. “Frankly, we want people to be eating lower on the food chain and plant-based,” she says.

“We lead with color, try to make it attractive and oh—by the way—it’s vegan,” Klos adds. The university plans to add more vegan items on menus across dining facilities, based on student feedback.

“We’re doing what we can to entice students to come to the platform,” she says. “Hopefully people are trying this food because it smells good and looks good.”

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