The animal rights super-group P.E.A.C.E. has given the University of CaliforniaSan Diego (UCSD) a major cruelty-free makeover, cafeteria style! That’s why we’re so proud to give the group peta2’s rare and well-deserved Star Student Group Award. Check out these tried-and-true tips from P.E.A.C.E. founder Alisha Utter:

UCSD P.E.A.C.E. (People for the Elimination of Animal Cruelty through Education) has been on a three-year journey toward creating a more vegan-friendly university. Having recently welcomed an all-vegan restaurant on campus, we have a few tips on ways that you can get vegan options in your dining hall or school cafeteria!

First, let them know that you are there. Initially, dining services at UCSD was under the impression that there was little to no demand for vegan options. This encouraged us to team up with the peta2 Campus Outreach Crew and collect signatures in support of the “Veganize Your Cafeteria” campaign. You’ll find that there is a great demand for vegan foods—whether it’s for the health benefits, the sustainability aspect, or concern for animals. During our first outreach, we gathered more than 2,000 signatures over the course of a few days!

Second, let those in charge of dining services know what you expect of them. When we first met with the executive chef and the nutritionist, we wanted them to expand their selection beyond the monotonous options offered at the time: french fries, salad, and pasta. Over time, even some of these limited “vegan” options were found to contain hidden animal products that were not listed in the nutritional information accessible to students. It was then that we realized that we would have to take a step back and build a relationship with dining services from the ground up—starting with education as our foundation. We shared delicious recipes and explained the basics of being veg (“Yes, coconut milk is vegan—no, egg whites are not”). If you start to hear “We’re working on it” from dining services and your e-mails are going unanswered, it’s time to take your story to the school paper! Within a couple of weeks after our story was published, we received a phone call from the executive chef, inviting P.E.A.C.E. to a private tasting at the new all-vegan dining hall, Roots.

Roots quickly became the most popular joint on campus, with lines often wrapping around the building! Among the crowd, one could overhear students gushing to one another about their favorites—whether it be the Root Burger (with Daiya vegan cheese, a marinated portobello mushroom, a Gardein Beefless BurgerVegenaise, and pesto) or the chocolate pudding. Better yet, vegan options are now catching on across campus. After P.E.A.C.E. spoke with several individual chefs, most dining halls now carry Tofurky and Vegenaise at their sandwich stations.

May your vegan appetite and commitment to animals lead the way! You can help eliminate cruelty to animals one dining hall at a time by remembering to “G.O. V.E.G.”: Gather support. Offer suggestions. Verbalize expectations. Educate others. Get active!

—Alisha Utter, the founder of UCSD P.E.A.C.E.