Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

NAIT opens all-vegan eatery, a first of its kind in Alberta

Square Root opened at start of fall term

Alberta’s first campus food outlet to serve exclusively vegan dishes has opened at NAIT. Square Root, located within bytes in the HP Centre on Main Campus, opened Sept. 4 with flavourful and healthy items for students and staff.

The menu includes items like avocado toast, lentil curry and tofu banh mi (Vietnamese-style sandwiches), says NAIT’s registered dietitian Nick Creelman, who created Square Root’s menu. He says Square Root is the first eatery of its kind on a post-secondary campus in Alberta – and among the first in Canada.

“I think we did a great job on all of it – taste, look, appeal and price point,” he says.

According to a poll conducted by researchers at Dalhousie University, 7.1% of Canadians consider themselves vegetarian while 2.3% say they’re vegan. The same poll also found Canadians under 35 are three times more likely to identify as vegetarian or vegan than older generations.

Growing demand for plant-based food

Creelman says he’s seen that reflected on campus, with more people requesting plant-based options. He believes younger people choose plants over animal protein due to the lower cost of ingredients and that they want to pick more sustainable options.

Square Root will provide nutritious options for members of the NAIT community who follow that diet or want to embrace the concept. The new outlet also gives more options for those with food sensitivities, like dairy allergies.

“The food has huge bursts of flavour.” 

Many of the recipes were inspired by Forward Food conferences across North America, which brings together chefs, industry and food service organizations interested in plant-based foods. NAIT hosted a conference in May and Creelman says eat AT NAIT chefs left feeling inspired and excited to develop plant-based dishes.

“The food has huge bursts of flavour,” says eat AT NAIT manager, Gloria Booth (Food and Nutrition Management '00). “It’s just a really great place to eat, you don’t need to be plant-based. You’re going to love it.”

mediterranean sweet potato

She says requests for vegan and vegetarian menu items have grown consistently for years. Eat AT NAIT introduced plant-based options at various outlets on campus and launched meatless Mondays at Common Market, which will continue. Now they’re going all in with this spot dedicated to plant-based cuisine.

“There’s an actual place people can go every day,” Creelman says.

“We’re investing in this,” adds Booth. “I can only see [it going] a positive direction. I believe it will be very successful.”

Square Root is open six days a week.

Subscribe to receive more great stories every month

Find out more news about NAIT, stories about our alumni and their impact on their communities, and useful how-to content featuring our experts.