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New Roots Fellows Spearhead 50% Plant-Based Dining Hall Commitment at UCLA

April 24, 2024

New Roots fellows Parker Do, University of California Los Angeles senior and co-founder of the Animal Welfare Alliance, and Joseph Serafino, UCLA sophomore, joined forces with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to secure a commitment of a 50% plant-based menu in UCLA’s dining halls by 2027. 

This new dining hall commitment will affect the 43,000 students who attend UCLA, as well as faculty and staff, who frequent the dining halls. This shift will have a range of impacts, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving inclusivity and accessibility to plant-based food options, and making use of new local supply chains.

Parker notes, "Between my sophomore year and now, options have increased dramatically." UCLA has also introduced signage connecting climate and health benefits to plant-based and high-fiber foods, and follows other prominent universities like UC Berkeley and UT Austin, which have made similar commitments to sustainable dining practices.

Parker and Joseph diligently worked on this campaign from April 2023 through March 2024 by gathering student data from past and current studies, engaging with key dining hall staff, facing rejection for proposed ideas, and navigating slow communication between various groups. When asked about next steps, Joseph emphasized the importance of sustaining the conversation and educating fellow students to ensure continuous engagement. He highlighted the importance of realizing that the changes and impacts of their efforts have positive consequences far into the future.

Promotional efforts to raise awareness are integral to campaigns like these. The Animal Welfare Alliance is hosting eleven events in April with plans for more as spring progresses. They are also evolving their organizational structure to expand their presence at UCLA and beyond, including SoCal meet-ups with different college student groups.

Reflecting on their experience, Parker and Joseph drew attention to the importance of patience in fighting for visibility for those starting similar campaigns and acknowledged the critical role that like-minded friends play as a crucial support system throughout the process. They cited the support they received from New Roots Institute, including help gaining an understanding of and mapping the power dynamics of the institutions and specific individuals involved in the campaign, the organizational structure needed to impact change, and connections to contacts who are well-versed in the UCLA sphere. They were motivated by their connections with students worldwide who are striving for similar goals.

Visit our Leadership Academy page to learn more about our fellows, and how to apply for our upcoming programs.