Vegan cafeteria in berlin: deep green and animal-free

Veggie 2.0: After a two-week test phase, Berlin’s first vegan canteen opened on Tuesday at the Technical University.

Without chicken strips: The salad bar of the vegan cafeteria at the Technical University. Photo: dpa

Behind a glass display case, the pasta machine is turning lumps of dough into spiral shapes. Next door, the pots of cereal bolognese are already steaming. Alternatively, there is vegetable curry with coconut milk or vegetable-potato pancakes with curry-mango sauce. Since Tuesday, Berlin’s first vegan canteen, "Veggie 2.0 – the deep green canteen," has officially opened at the Technical University in Hardenbergstrabe.

After the opening of Germany’s first vegetarian cafeteria at Freie Universitat in 2010, "Veggie Mensa No. 1," the completely animal-free version now follows. The test phase has been running since the end of March, and successfully so: "Veggie 2.0" has already recorded 400 to 450 guests per day, only 50 fewer than the 500 targeted to cover costs. And that’s despite the fact that the test phase fell during the Easter break, which is a study-free period.

The furnishings are less reminiscent of pragmatic cafeteria furniture than of modern cafes. Food is served from small stands, and young people sit at couches and round tables with their laptops. Soundproofing was even installed to dampen the noise. The Studierendenwerk spent 200,000 euros on the building. In addition to two regular daily specials, soup, salads, antipasti and desserts, freshly prepared food from the "action kitchen" is served here. The price range is between 1.45 euros and 3.80 euros per dish – the same as in the regular cafeterias. Only the "climate meal" is more expensive, which is supposed to be CO2-neutral.

With its 57 cafes and dining halls in Berlin, Studierendenwerk serves around 33,000 guests per day. As a public institution, it is supposed to cover its costs and fulfill its mandate. The food is so cheap because it is subsidized – part of the cost is borne by the state of Berlin, another part by each student with a "social contribution" of currently 54 euros in the semester fees. As a result, they ultimately pay less in the cafeteria than external students and university employees.

13.5% of all students live vegan

According to a survey by the Studierendenwerk, the need for a vegan cafeteria is there: 13.5 percent of the 14,000 Berlin students surveyed ate a vegan diet. In the "deep green cafeteria", chef Nicole Graf creates a daily varying menu with a total of 360 vegan recipes. This versatility is important: according to the researchers, in order to obtain all the important nutrients, vegans should pay attention to a balanced diet and, if necessary, supplement with additional nutrients, especially vitamin B12.

A total of 360 vegan recipes rotate on the menu

Apparently, the cafeteria does not only attract convinced vegans: "Many come to us simply because the offer is there," says Graf. But they obviously don’t want to antagonize meat eaters either: the regular cafeteria on the second floor, which serves meat and fish, is also located in the same building. "We don’t want to proselytize," says a spokeswoman. So far, there have only been complaints from students at other universities. They would have preferred to have the refectory close to them.

"Veggie 2.0 – die tiefgrune Mensa", Hardenbergstrabe 34, Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., paid for with the Mensacard.

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