MONMOUTH, Ore.—The Humane Society of the United States is thrilled to announce that Western Oregon University, the state’s oldest public university, has signed the Forward Food Pledge, committing to transition the university’s campus dining menus to 50% plant-based meals by 2027. 

WOU has set this meaningful goal in an effort to enhance student health, promote environmental sustainability, and meet growing student demand for creative new dining options. With 41% of undergraduates being students of color and 47% of the entire student body comprising first-generation students, the university aims to create a more inclusive campus dining experience for its diverse student body by adding more globally inspired whole food menu options. 

This summer WOU will team up with the HSUS Food Service Innovation team to host a week-long culinary training session for its staff. During the training, WOU dining staff will learn plant-based culinary tips and test out healthy, sustainable and inclusive plant-based recipes. The dining team will then launch a plant-based menu pilot event where they will showcase these delicious new options and gather student feedback during World Vegan Month this November. 

“We applaud WOU’s commitment to helping animals, their students and the planet through this exciting and impactful initiative,” said Kym Bower, food service innovation specialist at the Humane Society of the United States. “We are thrilled to be working with WOU to incorporate fun and innovative new menu options while lowering their environmental footprint and saving animals. We look forward to seeing other universities in the Pacific Northwest follow suit.”

Before signing the Forward Food Pledge, WOU was already a leader in sustainable dining initiatives. Currently, 29% of meals served on campus are plant-based. The university has also implemented a sustainable dining program which composts leftover food waste, uses “reWOUsable” to-go containers, and sources local foods when possible. 

“Working in an environment where you’re trying to prepare people for their future, I strongly believe we also must do our part to make sure the future is a place they want to live,” said Ben Lipp, general manager and chef at WOU. “Implementing small changes like this is a way we can do that. I say small because without knowing it, the students are already eating, and the staff are already preparing foods that include many plant-based options. I think with the help of this collaboration we will have a great time getting to that 50% plant-based.”

WOU’s commitment to expanding and elevating its plant-based menu options demonstrates the importance of adapting to scientific research and student demand. This shift is critical for mitigating the worst effects of the climate crisis, and WOU’s pledge proves that even “old dogs” (or wolves in their case) can learn new tricks.  

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