Vegetarian Lifestyle Gaines Strength in Gainesville


Samantha Doucette

Criminals break the laws, religious fanatics follow the word of God and nudists chose not to wear clothes. However, there is a lifestyle that seems to have become more and more popular. Vegetarianism is now a way of life for many in Gainesville.

“Compared to back home, Gainesville caters to my vegetarian palette,” said Maria Marquez, a vegetarian attending the University of Florida.

Vegetarians residing in Gainesville don’t have to choose from frozen veggie burgers and red meat alternatives. For as small as it is, the city is seen as one accommodates towards the vegetarian lifestyle.

“I have a vegetarian on my speech and debate team and whenever we travel to other college campuses, she struggles to find stuff on the menu and always comments about how Gainesville is so much more vegetarian-friendly,” Jessica Moscoso, a senior at UF, said.

Vegetarianism has been trending, and Gainesville is a prominent city with the number of people who chose that way of life. Maybe it’s because Gainesville has so much to offer the vegetarian and vegan community.

Take for example the Book Lover’s Café located at 505 NW 13 St. Book Lover’s was first established in 1989 in the basement of the shopping center on University Ave and 13th Street.

Run by Phil and Anne Haisley, they moved to their current location in 1993. In 1994, Book Lover’s Café became the first and only vegetarian café in Gainesville.

“There was absolutely no where in Gainesville or the area to get any vegetarian food. The café definitely has brought more customers,” Anne Haisley said.

As more and more vegetarians and vegans flocked to Book Lover’s Café, Anne and Phil decided that the vegetarian lifestyle was for them.

“I became convinced that it was healthier and more humane,” Haisley said.

There are many reasons why one might chose to pursue vegetarianism. Religion, the way they were raised, personal beliefs and disagreements over the treatment of animals are just a few of the more prominent reasons why some people do not consume meat.

Krishna Lunch is a volunteer based program that offers full vegetarian and vegan buffet lunches for $4. The lunches can be found on UF and Santa Fe College campuses, as well as the Krishna House located one block north of UF.

Krishna is a religion that is closely related to Buddhism. They however believe in the god, Krishna, and that everyone is apart of Krishna, from the tiniest droplet of ocean water to the tallest Redwood tree.

According to the Krishna Lunch website, they believe in a vegetarian lifestyle because “meat production devastates the earth. Eating meat degrades both the body and the spirit”.

A large number of people believe that the biggest downfall to being a vegetarian is the lack of nutrients you consume, along with limits you face when eating out or participating in cultural events.

“Food is such an important part of learning and immersing yourself in foreign cultures that I would hate to limit myself, especially while traveling,” said Emily Sasser, a vegetarian that converted back to meat.

In order to not eat meat, one must know what and how to eat the right things in order to maintain their health. Vegetarians face the most serious nutrient deficiencies with protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12.

With an abundant number of restaurants that offer a variety of different vegetarian and vegan options, a smart vegetarian in Gainesville will never have a problem with these deficiencies. If they eat right, vegetarians have the ability to exceed the healthfulness of most non-vegetarian diets.

“An individual just needs to take the time and effort to pay attention to make sure they are eating a well-balanced diet,” said Moscoso.

However, these deficiencies are still a main concern for those who chose the vegetarian lifestyle for the fad, quick weight loss or especially vegans, whom cut all dairy and seafood out of their diets as well.

In a survey taken from 15 college students, the meat eaters saw vegetarians and vegans as sickly looking, unable to form muscles, and pale, but this is actually the contrary. Those attributes could be applied to people who eat meat as well.

Tofu has been the most well-known food item in the vegetarian lifestyle for its high protein content. However, tempeh has recently pushed tofu out of the spotlight.

Tempeh is a natural soy product, like tofu, but it is fermented to maintain the whole bean giving it higher nutritional value in protein, dietary fiber and vitamins.

The Tempeh Shop at 1932 NE 23 Ave is a family owned and operated business in Gainesville that is the first and only organic-certified tempeh contributors in the southeast. They have been making and distributing traditional tempeh since 1985.

“It makes me feel good about what we’re doing,” Damian Caraballo, son of the owner and employee of The Tempeh Shop,  said when referring to the quality of their tempeh and the consistency of their family business.

Not only does this company not want to expand to retain the quality of fresh tempeh, but they are not driven by money. Instead they are dedicated to the “principals of sustainability, appropriate technology, ecological practices, fair trade, and self-sufficiency,” according to their website.

The Tempeh Shop is committed to keeping the traditional quality of tempeh, which has origins in a peasant society of Indonesia, while adjusting to modern day technology. They vacuum-seal, freeze and deliver fresh tempeh, overnight, all over Florida, guaranteeing quality over quantity.

“Overall, Gainesville has more local restaurants per capita that offer more vegetarian choices. Of course there are vegetarian communities all over, but Gainesville has more community support in becoming a vegetarian. We are definitely more locally based than other areas,” said Caraballo.

The Union Street Farmer’s Market is held every Wednesday from 4:00 to 7:00 pm in Bo Diddley Community Plaza. There is a plethora of organic, vegan and vegetarian options that are all locally based.

The Farmer’s Market is like a haven for vegetarians. You can hear Krishna chants off in the background as people scurry to and from all the tents, purchasing fresh vegetables and homemade bread.

This is what the vegetarian lifestyle is about; supporting local family-operated businesses, a sense of community, standing up for your beliefs, and being healthy.

Whether you are a vegetarian or not, this lifestyle is gaining more strength in numbers our unique community.