Vegetarian food in public schools: Why the resistance?

The contentious relationship between hormones, antibiotics, chicken, beef, human health, and childhood obesity has only led one US public school to offer vegetarian menus so far.

Half of the chicken and ground beef sold in the U.S. contains antibiotic resistant bacteria. And it’s well documented that meat and animal fat are but two of many protein sources.

Still, there’s much resistance to eating vegetarian.

Southern California, home of the smoothie moms and a number of vegan and vegetarian families aren’t the forerunners in healthy food in public schools. Queens, New York is because its PS 400 is the first school in the nation to serve a meatless menu to students.

The fight to end junk food vending remains in schools across the country. What would it take for other schools to institute a meatless menu?

First, parents, administrators and educators who wish to serve vegetarian dishes over meat products at school would have to advocate for the healthy menus.
Where there is a great idea, there’s generally opposition.

At the public school in Queens, NY, 400 students- pre-K through third grade--are eating three veggie meals a week. That’s because the program was supported by parents and the school district.

It’s a trial run for the Queens school, but vegetarian menus substitute animal protein with proteins from others sources like the protein in tofu and beans. Whereas a beef taco, for example, is converted to a vegetarian dish by removing the beef and replacing the meat with beans, rice, spinach and corn.

Vegetarian menus in public schools may be a long way off for the total country. And that’s primarily because educators are competing with food vendors outside of the cafeteria. Educators far and wide are opposed to vending machines, food trays and sodas on school grounds.

But the quest to raise awareness and involve parents in the fight against unhealthy foods inside public schools takes a lot of time. The campaign to begin a healthy eating regimen in public schools started three years ago.

In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act and that was beginning of the road healthy foods in p ublic schools. Congress was urged into action after health conscientious teachers and parents expressed opposition to vending and soda machines in schools.

Public health attorney Michelle Simon, founder of Appetite for Profit, feels the USDA has to shoulder more responsibility in the goal to get healthy food in public schools. Simon argues that the presence of “competitive foods” in public schools (competitive foods are soda machines, vending machines and food carts) “undermine” USDA’s original goal of nourishment for students with its reduced and free lunch program.

Read more from Simon on "Marketing to Children" at her website appetiteforprofit.com.

Sources: Think Progress: New York City Elementary School Goes Completely Vegetarian