This week, October 12 to 16, is National School Lunch Week. Although many schools still serve cholesterol-laden mystery meats and chicken nuggets, a recent nationwide survey by the School Nutrition Association showed that almost 2 out of 3 U.S. schools now offer vegetarian lunches on a regular basis—a nearly 40 percent increase since 2003.
All 110 Gwinnett County public schools in Atlanta, for example, currently offer tofu-based corn dogs, fresh fruit, soy milk and other vegetarian options. Grady High School, also in Atlanta, even has a separate lunch line for students who want vegetarian foods.
The Los Angeles Unified School District—the second-largest school district in the nation—serves various vegan foods and Wayland Public Schools in Framingham, Massachusetts, offer homemade hummus, salads and other meatless options. Officials at James Logan High School in Union City, California, incorporated vegan foods into the regular lunch menu when they saw how many kids frequented a student-run vegetarian “Smart Cart.”
Just last week, the Baltimore City Public School System won a Proggy (progress) award from PETA for observing “Meatless Mondays.” Many schools in the U.K. have also implemented a “Meatless Mondays” program.
This is a great start, but all schools need to serve healthy vegan meals all the time. The lunch line should be a source of nourishment, not disease. According to the late Dr. Benjamin Spock, “children who grow up getting their nutrition from plant foods rather than meats have a tremendous health advantage. They are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.”
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies has called on school lunch programs to offer fewer animal fats so that children aren’t exposed to so many dioxins—cancer-causing toxins found in meat and milk, and the American Dietetic Association sanctions vegan diets for children.
Given that vegetarian children tend to be healthier than their meat-eating counterparts—and that more and more children are adopting vegetarian diets every day—schools should provide more wholesome plant-based meals. If our children eat more healthy vegan foods, they can spend more time in the classroom—and on the playground—than in the doctor’s office, racking up medical bills. For more details, see www.GoVeg.com.