While Durham’s vegan and vegetarian community flourishes, Duke’s campus may not be as friendly a place for vegetarian students, vegan students or students who just want to eat healthy.

The vegan scene in Durham has become increasingly prominent, with organizations, nonprofits and social events bringing supporters from around the area together and motivating others to consider healthy lifestyles. Programs in Durham, such as the Triangle Vegan Social Club, Vegan Carolina, Food for Life and Triangle Vegetarian Society—which puts together one of the nation’s biggest vegan Thanksgiving dinners with almost 3,000 people last year—have catered not only to steadfast vegans, but also to people who are trying to eat healthier even a few days a week.

These organizations and events have grown in size with the help of social media, and now serve as places of community support and awareness, said Eleni Vlachos, co-head of Triangle Meatless Monday, an organization that encourages local people to skip meat one day a week. On campus, however, a scarcity of vegan dining options may also mean the absence of a supportive community for vegans and vegetarians.

“It’s just not sustainable to be a vegan. Vegans don’t have many options on campus, and very few of those options have protein in them,” sophomore and vegetarian Savannah Lynn said. “There’s definitely a lack of a cohesive vegetarian community, but I don’t know that it would be validated on campus—so many people actively hate vegetarians and vegans.”

Although Duke does not have an official group advocating for vegetarian or vegan lifestyles, certain campus eateries have participated in Meatless Mondays during October’s National Vegetarian Month, highlighting their vegetarian dishes. Students may also expect to see more vegetarian and vegan options with the opening of West Union.

Vlachos added that students can turn to new eating options off campus at the many vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Durham.

Her organization, which organizes meet-ups and promotes more than 20 restaurants in Durham that serve vegan food, also works on providing support for its members.

“It takes more character to stand up for something that a lot of people don’t feel is worthy at this moment because that’s not what the mainstream is doing”, Vlachos said. “The social aspect is important because I’ve seen that when people go vegan they get pushback. The vegan community gives you a chance to find [veganism easier] to stick it out.”

Susan Power, the owner of the Deli-icious food truck, also said that young people and particularly students have helped the movement gain momentum in Durham by increasing awareness of healthy eating.

“The vegan and vegetarian community is strong here,” she said. “Especially as students become graduates and end up working for these businesses that may not be catering to these special needs.”

The increased number of vegans in Durham can be attributed to more people realizing what a positive effect going vegan has on a person’s health, Vlachos said. Studies have also shown that going vegan not only reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes and other diseases, but also helps attenuate the harmful effects of global warming, she added. Consuming vegan food reduces the amount of fossil fuels used in both transportation and production of meat-based goods, since vegan foods are often locally produced.

Veganism is the most effective way to make a positive impact on the environment, added Dilip Barman, who is certified by Food for Life to teach sustainable cooking in Durham and is host of the Triangle Vegetarian Society’s Big Thanksgiving dinner.

“The whole country is becoming more vegetarian,” he said. “Surveys have shown that people looking for vegan food are in the double digits. I don’t think the argument of ethics has made a big difference in these numbers; I think the health argument is becoming stronger and stronger.”