Lately, it seems like everyone’s talking about ethical eating. Perhaps it’s due to the scary inside information being released on the factory farms that dominate the meat industry. Or maybe we can thank popular writers like Jonathan Safran Foer for shedding (pretty terrifying) light on the meat-eating issue with his book Eating Animals, which was the required reading for incoming College of Charleston freshmen in 2012. But regardless of its origins, this national conversation is sparking change in Charleston, and the College is taking the lead with a vegan/vegetarian/kosher dining hall scheduled to open in September 2014.
The new dining facility will be part of a major addition to the College of Charleston Jewish Studies Center, made possible by a recent $1 million pledge. This expansion will double the size of the Jewish Studies Center by adding new classrooms for several subjects including the School of Languages, but it is the new dining hall that is really expected to attract new students to the college.
The vegan dining hall will be named for professor and Jewish Studies director Martin Perlmutter, who has a passion for ethical eating. He maintains a vegetarian menu at home and is deeply interested in the philosophical questions raised by food consumption. “This dining facility is a major step for the College providing vegan, vegetarian, or kosher observant students an attractive place to dine and frame a community around their eating,” explains Perlmutter. “It will educate students and faculty that eating behaviors are life choices that reflect one’s values towards the environment, other animals, religious traditions, and much more.”
The dining hall will be on the college’s meal plan, but it will be open to the community as well as students. It will offer fresh fish menu options, and there will always be separate vegan and vegetarian food bars. In keeping with the facility’s focus on conscious food choices, Perlmutter adds, “The College will try to be sensitive to the way food is produced — locally, environmentally sensitive, and humanely.”
Perlmutter acknowledges that it’s hard to know many specific details because the project is new and somewhat experimental, but nevertheless he is excited about the potential. “It is terrific that the College is creating communities around eating while educating people that eating and respect for the environment are closely connected,” says Perlmutter.