Schools All-Vegetarian Meal Plan Isn’t Right for All Kids

Rant 68

veggiesThe childhood obesity problem is our national shame. Over 1/3 of kids in this country are overweight, so I applaud anyone who tries to tackle this potentially deadly issue. However, I was surprised by the approach of a group of New York City educators. A public school in Flushing, Queens is the first to serve all-vegetarian meals for breakfast and lunch.

School chefs have replaced chicken, turkey and ham with tofu and falafel. Forget tater tots and sloppy joes, these kids are chowing down on black bean and cheddar cheese quesadillas. In general, it's a great move. I think this new meal plan sounds healthy, if not exactly fair.

I doubt that most kids in that neighborhood are vegetarians.  And while I do think having vegetarian options available is a good thing, they should also offer the kids meat. There are certainly healthy, low-fat ways to cook poultry -- baked chicken, grilled turkey burgers, and turkey sandwiches would be acceptable too, I would think. Why must they eliminate meat completely?

Officials hope this is the first of many schools that will follow suit in New York City and beyond. The philosophy behind it is that if we teach our kids to make healthy choices at a young age, they will do so for the rest of their lives. But meat options can be healthy too. It is is a very important source of protein that I wish my picky eater ate more of. And he is more likely to do that when he is eating with his friends. Seeing them take a big bite of a chicken strip and sandwich encourages him to do the same. So, while a vegetarian mean plan is a definite improvement on what children have historically been served in school, it may not be best for every student. Why can’t they cook healthy alternatives for both meat eaters and vegetarians?

Do you think all-vegetarian school meals are a good idea?


Image via erix!/Flickr



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B1Bomber B1Bomber

Meat is expensive and difficult to cook in a healthy way on a large scale. Beans and tofu are cheaper and not as susceptible to food poisoning bacteria.

nonmember avatar Rory Gilmore

I think if its done with whole foods, it's fine. Corn and soy are almost always GMOs if they aren't organic, so that's what I'm most concerned about. I wouldn't want my kids filled with GMOs either.

Angie... AngieHayes

Show children where meat really comes from, then they wouldn't "choose" to eat it. 

bills... billsfan1104

I have seen some fat vegetarians.

IKnow... IKnow0101

Since my son is scare of most foods except for 5 favorites I would cry if I saw him eat a bite of anything.

mamat... mamatreat

Honestly I think its ridiculous to push your ideas of what people should/shouldn't eat on others. Whats next- 100% vegan school lunches? Thats awfully expensive and time consuming. Schools should have a vegetarian option and a healthy meat option. 

work4... work4mickey

Nothing wrong with vegetarian meals. I'm a meat lover, but I still serve vegetarian meals at home on occasion. What's important is that meals include protein, which can come from.beans, tofu, quinoa, cheese, or other vegetarian sources. By making all meals vegetarian, schools simplify their menu, and budget, since they only have to prepare one type of meal. If you feel so strongly that your kids need meat, you can still feed it to them at home.

SKDMo... SKDMom1020

I think both vegetarian and meat choices should be available. Meat, if not processed and full of fat, is a good choice. As a matter of fact, cardiologists are now saying that refined sugars and processed carbs are even worse for you than lean meats and healthy fats. Bread is just about one of the worse things you can eat. I would rather have my child eat a salad with some grilled chicken or steak than a quesadilla made with flour tortillas.

jhslove jhslove

Personally, I love the idea. But I think a more realistic way to do it would have been to have one vegetarian day a week--Meatless Mondays, like the LA schools are doing, and offer vegetarian OPTIONS the other days. The problem with serving meat in school cafeterias is that what's served is almost always processed, fatty and horrible for you. Yes, lean ground turkey and chicken breast are great healthy choices, but that's not what most school cafeterias are serving. They're serving grade-D "hamburger", processed "chicken" patties, and hot dogs.

However, those who are whining about how the school is "telling us what we can and can't eat" need to grow up. Kids who don't want to eat the school food are free to bring their lunch, and no one is following them home to inspect the dinner table. It's sad that any effort to make school lunches healthier and better is being met with so much resistance.

nonmember avatar Lindsey

The problem is that we Americans have convinced ourselves that we need a meat item with every meal, or at least with both lunch and dinner, which is not the case. Humans are not designed to eat so much meat, and one serving is the size of our fist. I agree that nobody should force these children to become a vegetarian, but they are likely eating meat at dinner, and it is not realistic to think the schools will prepare baked chicken for lunch. I grew up attending a low-income school where most lunches were either hamburgers or hot dogs and then I went home in the evening to similar offerings. I think it's great to make sure these kids are getting their fill of veggies and introduce them to vegetarian options. My boyfriend is not a vegetarian but I am, so he has meat with lunch and a vegetarian dinner with me; it works for us and we're both healthy. If you consider the way meat is produced, the water is takes to make a pound of meat versus a pound of grain, the pollution associated especially with pork and beef consumption, 14+ servings of meat per person per week is not sustainable and it's best that these kids learn other options young, even if they still have meat at home (or if a parent packs it).

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