If you’re a student at any US school, chances are you don’t have many options when it comes to vegan eating in the cafeteria. Lacto-ovo vegetarian options, they are aplenty: cheese pizza, grilled cheese, bean and cheese burrito, mac and cheese, etc. But if you’re vegan (or lactose-intolerant, someone with allergies, vegan-esque, or even just a healthy eater) you’ve probably been overlooked by the school’s kitchen staff.
I know this from first-hand experience. When I went vegan for a year in junior high school, I realized there wasn’t anything in my school cafeteria that I could eat. Even the vegetables were cooked in animal fat! So I brought my own lunches.
Now, nearly twenty years later I see my nephew’s lunch menu poses the same problems. His school does, however, offer a vegan option. But it’s not printed on the menu, so you’d only know if you asked. And the option they offer is the exact same thing everyday: a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich.
Remember, it’s not just the vegans who want vegan options:
“Roughly one in eight adults (13%) is a “semi-vegetarian” who currently eats meat with fewer than half of his or her meals.” (source)
“Nearly one-quarter of Americans say that they sometimes go meatless ” (source)
“a quarter of college students felt that having vegan meals on campus was ‘important to them.’” (source)
“10% of consumers say they largely follow vegetarian-inclined diets and 5% more are ‘definitely interested’ in shifting to vegetarian-based diets in the future.” (source)
With that in mind, I offer a list of resources for any student or parent who wants vegan options in school cafeterias.
But first, remember your best tools are your own voice and perseverance. Just like dining in restaurants, you have to ask for what you want. No one can read your mind. Then, if/when they give you trouble, you have to ask again (and maybe again and again). To many cafeteria workers, veganism is completely foreign and strange. They may have strong biases or prejudices against veganism. Most likely, you will have to educate them. Be polite, confident, and patient.
Now for the list of resources:
- PETA’s “Does Your School Flunk Lunch?”
- PETA2′s “Veganize Your Cafeteria”
- Vegan Break’s Michelle Taylor’s “Vegan at College — Your Dining Hall Options”
- Making your own healthy vegan lunch: Vegan Lunch Box
- Healthy School Lunches: “Resources for Parents”
- Healthy School Lunches: “Join the Revolution”
- Veg Family’s article on the topic
- About.com’s article on the topic
Update: Vegan Break added a page titled “Top 10 Pieces of Advice from a College Vegan”. Check it out here >>