A Call for More Vegetarian Options in the Cafeteria

Hannah Christopher and Jalen Flaherty

Throughout the United States, more than two thirds of the adult population is overweight or obese, and over one third of children in the United States are overweight.  Many children and adults no longer eat healthy and this is a huge problem in our society.

Part of this problem is because of the food served in school cafeterias. Some schools will let children only eat chips or junk food for lunch without any protein, fruits or vegetables. More people in the United States have made the choice to switch to being vegetarians or vegans. Vegetarians are people who don’t agree with eating any meat, and vegans are people who don’t agree with eating any animal by-products.  Approximately 7.3 million people in the US consider themselves to be on a vegetarian based diet, and 1 million people out of those 7.3 million consider themselves to be vegans. New York alone is the 4th largest vegetarian/vegan state.

Weedsport Central School makes the students buy a fruit with their lunch and tries to ensure they are eating correctly. While the push toward healthier options is admirable, the are very few vegetarian or vegan options. Even the salads in the cafeteria have meat in them. It makes it harder for vegetarian students to find something they can eat during school that is following their lifestyle. Vegetarians can eat pizza or PBJ everyday, but that is extremely unhealthy and vegans can’t even eat the pizza or drink the milk. Even if they can eat these foods, they shouldn’t have to because it would be going against their values.

In addition to vegetarian and vegan options, some students follow a gluten free diet at Weedsport. Some students are even allergic to gluten, and most won’t be able to bring their lunch because it is too expensive, along with organic food. One jar of organic peanut butter alone today is eight dollars.

When asked about vegetarian options, Weedsport Jr./Sr. High School Food Service’s Donna Deyo said that “We already have some vegetarian options and we will make whatever the students want if they come in and ask for it….. the cafeteria already has some vegetarian options like salad and pizza.” The problem with this system is that vegetarians have such a limited amount of options, and most of them are unhealthy to eat everyday like pizza and PBJ. It would be hard for the school to buy vegetarian options, but it’s also hard for students to buy vegetarian food when it’s so expensive. There are vegetarian options that are easy to buy that the school could make more salads containing no meat, possibly bring soybean based foods in, like tofu.

When we questioned Weedsport 9th grade student Karma Sobiech, a vegetarian, on what she thought about the cafeteria options she said, “It would be nice for vegetarians to not have to eat pizza everyday, and it isn’t healthy to have so little options, and it isn’t fair that vegetarians have less options.”

Students don’t know to ask for those options, and even if they did, what healthy food choices does the school have besides pizza? Grilled cheese and a fruit cup? A number of vegetarian/vegan students aren’t happy with the limited options the cafeteria is giving them, and we would like to see it fixed.