Berlin’s first vegan canteen for students has opened its doors, reflecting a growing interest in eating only plant-based food in Germany, Veggie 2.0 is an experimental initiative of the Studierendenwerk Berlin, the state-run organization governing student affairs. Its backers say they are responding to a growing trend towards veganism.
In a recent survey of 14,000 Berlin students, 13.5 percent said they were vegan, compared to just 1.6 percent of the wider population.
Jana Judisch, a spokeswoman for Studierendenwerk Berlin, described Veggie 2.0, part of the Technical University in the west of the city, as an experiment, insisting there was no intention of trying to convert people to veganism.
But as the canteen — known commonly in German as a mensa — is also open to members of the public, the expectation is that interest will spread.
“We’re hoping for 500 customers a day,” she told the Berliner Zeitung. Around 4,500 people frequent the canteen upstairs in the same building, which serves meat and fish dishes — typically schnitzel, sausage and meatballs.
Prices at Veggie 2.0 for students, payable with a chip card, start at €$1.45 a dish and go up to €$3.80. A second, slightly higher price category applies to university staff, while members of the public not connected to the university pay the third category, but even those prices are modest.
Berlin boasts around 57 mensas and coffee bars. While they have been offering vegetarian and vegan options since 2011, they have seen demand expand over the past few years, and with that pressure grew to create a vegan-only eatery.
“The need for a mensa like this was certainly there,” said Judisch. “Here we have the opportunity to try out recipes and to develop the range. It’s like we have a research assignment. After all it’s a new field for the entire gastronomical world, and we’re in a good place to practice and experiment with new ideas.”
Architecture student Felix Wirschpitzki, who has been vegan for the past 11 years, was the first to be served when Veggie 2.0 opened its doors this week. Digging into a plate of vegetable curry and whole-grain rice, he told Deutschlandfunk: “Now I no longer have to pay attention to what’s in everything — I can trust the fact that from muffins to soup, it’s definitely vegan.”
Dishes, prepared by qualified vegan cook Nicole Graf, include pumpkin chia seed patties and lentil and spelt grain curry. No less than two starters, four main dishes, a variety of side dishes and salads and three deserts are on the menu every day.
Graf has sourced all the ingredients from what she calls responsible, sustainable farms and is overseeing the production of pasta on site. Currently a pasta machine is churning out 30kg of semolina-based pasta every day, and has the capacity to produce up to 800kg.
“The exciting thing about vegan cooking is that there’s such a lot to discover, I’m learning all the time and here we can try new things out,” she said.
The canteen is not the first in Germany — Nuremberg opened one for students in 2017, but on a much smaller scale. The creators of Veggie 2.0 have said they will be happy to share their ideas and findings with other like-minded initiatives.
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