SHIPPENSBURG — Finding a quality vegetarian or vegan meal is not always easy, especially for students limited to a university campus with no vehicle for travel.

That, however, is no longer a complaint at Shippensburg University.

Nick Iula, director of dining services at Shippensburg University, has worked at the university for nine years and has steadily worked to bulk up its vegetarian and vegan options.

“Now, every year, we’re working on the variety of vegan options and quality of vegan options,” he said.

That work has not gone unnoticed. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals scores higher education institutions on vegan options based on responses to the surveys it sends to schools.

Shippensburg University received an A, and now it is part of a March Madness-like bracket for the Favorite Vegan-Friendly College.

Voting for Round 1 is open until Wednesday and is available at http://features.peta2.com/vegan-colleges-2014. As of 4 p.m. Friday, the school had the second highest number of votes of all 32 schools listed in two separate brackets — one for large U.S. schools and one for small U.S. schools, where Shippensburg is listed. Though the votes were close Thursday, Shippensburg University was beating its first opponent on Friday with 120 votes compared to University of North Carolina-Asheville’s 38 votes.

On the other end of the small schools bracket, Wesleyan University had the most votes Friday afternoon with 158, with Wellesley College at third with 100 votes. None of the top vote-getters are facing each other in Round 1.

In PETA’s scoring of Shippensburg University, it noted that the university’s most valuable entrée was its Vietnamese tofu, and the school got positive notes for offering at least one vegan entrée at every meal, offering nondairy milk, labeling vegan entrées and desserts, including a vegan member on its student advisory board, promoting vegan options and partnering with students to distribute vegan food.

Having good vegan options is especially important to Iula, who himself is vegan.

“We do it for many reasons, but the primary reason is that we want students to be healthy,” he said. “Every time you eat a vegan meal, you’re getting less saturated fat.”

Iula noted that the university makes sure it has plenty of meat options, but the school does take part in Healthy Eating Adventure challenges to promote healthy eating and vegan options, as well as incorporate its university farm to provide vegetables for the meals.

Though he’s proud to see more students with a healthy diet, Iula said his main focus is to provide what the students and staff want from the dining halls and food options on campus.

“Interestingly, seven to eight years ago, we received a lot of comments from students about not getting vegetarian and vegan options. That disappeared four years ago,” he said. “We never had a student complain (after that), and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from the faculty and staff.”

Email Naomi Creason at ncreason@cumberlink.com or follow her on Twitter @SentinelCreason

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