Vegetarian Meals, on the Cheap

Krishna lunch at the University of Florida

Krishna lunch at the University of Florida means more than just grabbing a quick bite to eat; for some students, it has become a tradition.

The Krishnas have been there, in the same spot at the plaza, for more than 38 years.

Every day, rain or shine, students can enjoy a healthy vegetarian, all- you- can- eat buffet, for a donation of $4. Students can also buy lunch cards, which drop the price to a mere $3.33.

Krishna Temple president Kalakantha das says the lunches are a part of their tradition. " Our tradition is centered around the idea of sacrament in everything one eats, and so preparing, eating and serving that sacred food is part of us."

Wednesdays are, by far, the busiest day at the Krishna line. They serve a popular pasta on that day and some students find it quite addicting.

"I truly think it's because they put addictive substances in the sauce," UF student Alex Jaditian jokes. "Either that, or it's so delicious that it has become addictive on its own."

Good Food and Companionship

Jaditian says he will stay in line for hours, if need be, but he adds he comes here for more than just the lunch itself.

"It's not only the food that tastes good. You get to eat under good weather, you have your good friends with you." Kumar Vasudevan and Franco Alvaredo agree with Jaditian. "It's outside and it's really nice to seat with a lot of friends and eat the lunch."

Vasudevan also likes the convenience and price. "I'm a vegan and it's all you can eat food for $3.33, and I don't think I can have a good nutritious meal for this price anywhere else."

"We make sure our food is nutritious too. Vegans sometimes lack Vitamin B, so we try to supplement that need," Kalakantha das said.

Eating Krishna food can also lessen a diner's carbon footprint, he said. "We feel this is a God-centered activity and by being so, we feel that we are helping everyone involved in it. Not to mention the ecological impact of people eating less red meat and helping with the lessening of global warming."

Feeling the Financial Pinch

Unfortunately, the Krishna are not immune from the economic crisis. In the past two months, the number of lunches served increased 20 percent from its level in 2008, but donations have fallen 15 percent.

"Because we are not a business and we serve very generously, people that may be having a hard time are bypassing contributions, or getting one plate and many forks," Kalakantha das said. "We would feed the whole world if we could. " But "we might have to include some ways of policing to make sure all helped the cost of their meals."

Between 600 and 1,000 students eat the Krishna lunch every day.

The last time the prices were raised on the meals was November 2007. Kalakantha das said he is trying not to raise the price again.

Split on Cost

The students are split on the issue. "It depends on how much more. I feel like at a certain level of expense I wouldn't be willing to spend that much because I could cook my own food," Vasudevan said.

Jaditian, on the other hand, is willing to accept price increases. "If they keep raising the prices it I would still eat it. It is just so convenient and healthier than other alternatives," he said.

For those students who are hard on cash, the Krishnas offer volunteering opportunities. Students can help cook, set up and clean up in exchange for food.

They are asking students to help out right now by avoiding waste and donating again if taking food home for a later meal.

Students have made this lunch line so popular it is now featured in the Official UF Book of Traditions. It ranks almost as high as going to a football game. " It's more than just lunch," Jaditian said as he is about to take his first bite. "It's a social experience."

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