From basic sustenance to socialization, food is critical to mental and physical health. For college students, finding a balanced and appealing diet has the potential to be either a stressor or a reprieve.
According to The Vegan Society, veganism completely avoids all animal products, primarily in the scope of food, but also in reference to the fashion industry and entertainment (i.e. opting for wearing vegan leather and visiting animal sanctuaries rather than wearing animal leather and visiting zoos).
Veganism is a growing practice, especially among the college demographic. According to a 2021 report by NPD, "both dairy and meat plant-based alternatives are forecast to grow through 2024, driven almost entirely by Millennials and Gen Zs, who choose these products for better health and because of their interest in sustainability and animal welfare."
With the advent of modern factory farming, many people choose to be vegan to avoid animal cruelty, killing or impacting animals in any way; others choose this route to improve their health or simply because it meets their dietary preferences. The meat and dairy industries contribute to a large percentage of carbon emissions, which may lead some to become vegan for environmental reasons. Religion is another route to veganism.
In recent years, veganism and plant-based diets have become pervasive in diverse, urban areas in the West, as well as in mainstream media.
Acclimating to a new environment at IUPUI, many vegan students, or students interested in trying vegan food, may wonder how this city fares in terms of vegan cuisine. Considering Indiana’s reputation for traditional Midwestern dishes and a plethora of food deserts in and around Indianapolis, students may be surprised to learn that farmers market vendors, small business owners, local organizations and established restaurant owners have been working to increase the vegan options in Indianapolis for over a decade.
One example is Soulshine Vegan Café, which is one of the only vegan breakfast spots in Indianapolis. Located in Broad Ripple, a 20 minute drive from IUPUI’s campus, Soulshine provides a welcoming space to relax, study and enjoy a variety of vegan menu items, with its mission of making veganism more accessible.
Elijah Bullard is the co-owner and founder of Soulshine. Bullard opened the business in November 2022 with partner Madison Bullard.
Soulshine resides in a renovated garage, connected to a house for lease that was previously a meditation center, according to Bullard. The interior of the café displays art from local artists and the café overall has a music-centric theme.
Bullard discusses how financial backing is a huge part in a small business getting their foot in the door.
“We sold our house to make this happen. We moved in with my in-laws and gave up everything we had to make this happen,” Bullard said.
Since the establishment of Soulshine is relatively new as it had opened in Nov. 2022, Bullard says their current focus is getting the word out and bringing in as many people as they can.
“Right now, we are just trying to embed ourselves in Broad Ripple, and make us a big part of everybody’s weekly and daily routines here,” Bullard said. “Vegan or not, because our food is very accessible to vegans and non-vegans.”
“I think that IUPUI and Butler students for the most part aren’t aware that we’re here yet,” Bullard says. “That’s also one of our goals, is to try and get that across to people that we’re here and it's gonna be a good place to study and get coffee, and even if you’re not vegan, the food and coffee products are gonna be stuff that you’ll enjoy.”
Some ways that Soulshine keeps its mission in mind is by partnering with Oinking Acres Farm in Brownsburg, to advocate for the animal cruelty prevention aspect of veganism, and composting with Green With Indy, to support the environmental component of veganism. Soulshine also provides financial incentives to customers who compost with them.
Socioeconomic status, transportation availability and food environments (ex. areas that provide low levels of access to healthy and affordable food) are some variables that often pose barriers to those, especially in urban areas like Indianapolis, searching for healthy and affordable food.
Soulshine aims to make their menu as accessible as possible; people with different allergies, vegetarians, pescatarians and those who only eat halal or kosher (which are respective Islamic and Jewish guidelines for food that exclude certain animal products and entail slaughtering that causes minimal pain to animals) often find their needs met with vegan food options. From a pricing standpoint, the costs of the items are comparable to non-vegan cafes.
“The nice thing about being vegan is that it will apply to a lot of different people," Bullard said. "We want anybody that's interested to be here.”
Sahar Abdullah (she/her) is a senior at IUPUI, majoring in Biomedical Informatics with minors in Literature and Chemistry. She is the Culture Editor of The Campus Citizen.