On a campus with over 40,000 people, it is easy to feel isolated, especially when one is new to the area. When I first came to the university, one of my greatest concerns was the potential isolation I would face because of my choice to practice a vegan diet. Because practicing veganism is so rare, I was afraid that my diet choice would drastically set me apart from others. However, that was not the case, thanks to the Red Herring Restaurant. I first went to the Red Herring in the fall of my freshman year with another vegan I had met in the dining hall. That night at dinner I felt more at home than I had any other place on campus, and all fear of isolation disappeared.
Last month, February of 2018, marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Red Herring. The Red Herring is a vegan restaurant in Urbana Illinois that serves fresh, organic, locally grown vegan food at prices that are as fair and accessible as possible. The restaurant is housed below the Channing Murray Foundation, a Unitarian-Universalist campus-community center that provides educational, artistic, and cultural programs. Because of this, the restaurant holds many of the same value that the value that the foundation holds. The restaurant serves vegan food not because it is hip or trendy, but because they believe in living cruelty- free and sustainable lifestyles filled with as much love as possible. This is because, in addition to being cruelty-free, veganism is the most sustainable diet one can practice. According to an article on the greenhouse gas emissions of meat eaters by Peter Scarborough et al, each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 ft2 of forested land, and 20 pounds CO2 equivalent.
In addition to serving incredibly delicious and nutritious food, the atmosphere and energy in the restaurant is remarkable and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It isfilled with so much light and love, thanks to the incredible staff who always make it feel like home. In additionto preparing the food, they extend their outreach by holding educational and promotional events for causes that they believe in. They also promote sustainability in all forms; through social justice, education, human rights, and environmental activism. Because of this, the Red Herring stands as a pillar of peace in the Champaign-Urbana community. Over the past three years, the Red Herring has given me peace when I felt overwhelmed, kept me warm when I was cold, gave me company when I felt alone, and always fed me the most delicious food when was I was hungry.
The fifty years of service that the Red Herring has provided has benefited Champaign Urbana in countless ways. The community is lucky to have the Red Herring, it would not be the same without it. Three years after attending my first dinner, and I am sitting in my favorite booth at the Red Herring, sipping soup to stay warm on a cold november afternoon and reminiscing on all the wonderful food and good times I’ve shared with loved ones in this magical space. The Red Herring will always hold a special place in my heart and always be a place I call home.