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Students cast their vote for veganism

This spring has brought new winds of change at Kipsari. The student restaurant started operating as a fully vegan restaurant.
Kipsari student lounge photo by Tuomas Uusheimo
Kipsari restaurant is located in Väre building in Otaniemi. Photo: Tuomas Uusiheimo / Aalto University

The menu at the vegetarian restaurant Kipsari had been almost entirely vegan for several weeks before. But now it was decided to completely abandon products of animal origin. Kipsari held a vote among its customers, and the result was undisputed: the restaurant's decision to go vegan was overwhelmingly supported.

According to Matti Jänkälä, chairman of the Kipsari board, the result also speaks for the principles of the School's student association TOKYO:

‘We want to support a sustainable lifestyle.’

The change of menu was made in February in connection with the Vegan Challenge. Participants in the January campaign follow a vegan diet for a month.

The change was relatively easy, but both TOKYO and the Kipsari board feel it is all the more significant.

‘We wonder why we didn't do this earlier’, says Jänkälä. ‘It wasn't a big change, but it was important for us due to an accelerating climate crisis.’

The switch to veganism was seen as an appropriate way to take into account aspects of sustainability and animal rights. According to Matti Jänkälä, ethics and environmental friendliness are pursued in many other ways, too. Fair trade and local and organic food are favoured in products.

From an illegal bar to a vegetarian restaurant and event space

Originally, the University of Art and Design Helsinki (later School of Arts, Design and Architecture) as well as restaurant Kipsari were located in the Ateneum building (originally home for both art museum and art school).

The name of the restaurant refers to the plaster cellar where Kipsari, initially an illegal bar, was established in the 1960s. Its reputation as a legendary nightlife and party venue dates back to those days.

Opiskelijaravintola Kipsari Arabiassa 1990-luvulla oli kasvisravintola ja tapahtumatila
Kipsari in Arabia district in Helsinki in the 1990s was also an active event location. Photo: Kipsari

In the 1980s, the School moved to Arabia, district in Helsinki known for its ceramics. There, Kipsari occupied several premises, and even lost them temporarily due to the construction of the Media Centre Lume.

The students’ solution was to start a food trolley, which they pushed along the corridors of the School. Matti Jänkälä thinks the students' protest eventually played a role in getting new premises for the restaurant.

‘The students parked the trolley in front of the Rector's office at the School. The office was a glass booth overlooking the corridors, so it was probably an annoying enough thing to do.’

In 1998, Kipsari became a legal company. Student workers were replaced by professional staff and the location in the centre of the Arabia district brought in clients from the campus and beyond.

‘Also students from the Helsinki University’s Kumpula campus came to eat at Kipsari, because the place had such a good reputation’, says Jänkälä.

In addition to TOKYO’s own events, the students organised a number of events, including concerts, at the restaurant. Among the performers were the rising star bands like Ultra Bra and the Don Johnson Big Band.

Over time, a large number of students have embraced the restaurant. And no wonder: the students' wishes have been listened to along the way – now it was time to change the menu to a fully vegan one.

Kipsari's main goal is to provide quality student food to its customers.

‘Kipsari has always existed as a service for students. It aims to provide good vegetarian and vegan food, as well as offer the opportunity to eat plant-based on campus.’

Kipsari is located on the ground floor of the Väre building at Otaniementie 14, Espoo.

Text: Venla Välikangas

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