Lettuce impress you Lettuce impress you Lettuce impress you

Take a look inside the crunchy (and sustainable) world of the UW's Lettuce Eating Club.

By Caitlin Klask | Photos by Ron Wurzer | June 2024 issue

It all started when Ben Roscoe, ’23, saw a tweet about a lettuce-eating competition at the Maine School for Science and Mathematics in 2017. “You know you’re messed up when you’re looking forward to joining a lettuce club,” writes user bisexuwhalepride, who goes on to explain the club rules: Meet yearly and eat an entire head of lettuce. Whoever finishes fastest is the club’s new leader.

Roscoe kicked off a lettuce eating club at Emerald Ridge High School in Puyallup, but it never took root until he brought that green energy to the UW. The first UW competition took place virtually in 2020Roscoe’s freshman yeardue to the pandemic, but the seeds were planted. By the third annual lettuce-eating competition on April 20, 2022, “we had 150 people in the room and went through at least 90 heads of lettuce,” Roscoe recalls. “Last year’s was even bigger, outside in the rain, with about 200 people attending.” This year’s winner, Dina Thoresen, ’24, bested more than 150 hopefuls to become the 2024 Sultan of Salad. Thoresen also took the crown in 2022, making her the first two-time Sultan.


But why lettuce? “I always assumed it was a play on ‘devil’s lettuce,’” says Ollie Le, of the Lettuce Eating Club Tribunal, the group’s leadership board. It’s a 4/20 tradition, after all. (That’s a weed reference, for the cannabis-unaware.) But April is also Earth Month, and the Lettuce Eaters are all about the Earth. “We need the Earth for lettuce, so there’s a natural connection,” says Le. “We’re all interested in either the Earth itself and being sustainable, or we share an interest in food and eating together, which is a great way to connect with others.”

But there’s a deeper reason for the club’s growth. “We’re all about climate justice,” says club president Noelle Calara. Earlier this year, the club held a donation drive for the UW Food Pantry.

The crowd of would-be Sultans of Salad buy their heads of iceberg from club representatives, take a seat at a table and prepare to tear, chew, squish and swallow their way to victory. In 2023, Esha Gollapalli, who joined the club in salad-arity with her lettuce-loving pet rabbit, was nearly disqualified for pressing the buzzer before she’d finished swallowing her final bite. Lettuce eaters are a rules abiding bunch.

Roscoe, who now works for the Federal Reserve Board, considers himself and his fellow lettuce club members “holy crusaders in the name of the righteous lettuce, iceberg lettuce.” But while lettuce was in their mouths, climate change was always on their minds. He “couldn’t be prouder” of the current leadership and its focus on climate change as well as chomping together. The club tribunal is quick to honor Roscoe. “They say that science is standing on the shoulders of everyone who came before you, right?” says Le. “It’s the same thing for lettuce eating competitions.”

“This is going to sound crazy coming from me,” says Roscoe, “but it was never about the lettuce. It’s always been for the people who eat the lettuce.” In the hectic world of tests and lectures, Lettuce Eating Club members can unite over shared passions for community and environmental justice. And a good crunchy head of iceberg.