Veggie menus at school

School is wrapping up for another year, so I thought I’d mention some good news that might get kids looking forward to fall (yeah, right!).

You may have heard that PS 244, Active Learning Elementary School in Queens, NY, adopted meat-free menu in their cafeteria recently. The students led the change at the pre-kindergarten to third-grade school. They were drawn to healthy plant-based options like falafel, spinach wraps, and cucumber salad.

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Now, the San Diego school district is introducing Meatless Mondays to its kindergarten through 8th grade students. The move was voted in by the board as an attempt to introduce healthy eating to the kids and help curb obesity. Starting this fall, students will get to enjoy meals like tofu and vegetable stir fry, baked potatoes, and grilled vegetable paninis.

From coast to coast, kids are learning about veganism. Let’s hope that these two changes are the start of a healthy, cruelty-free trend.

Are you a student or a parent with school-age kids? Maybe you work at a company with an employee food service program. Why not ask them to introduce more vegan food in the cafeteria? It’s never to early–or late–to start a life-long habit that has a profound effect for people, the environment, and the animals.

Becoming vegetarian

I’m a vegan now, but I wasn’t always.

At age three I had an epiphany and made the connection between what I was eating and where it came from. But being young, I was easily fooled. Call it “chicken” and I wouldn’t eat it; call it “meat” and I would.

For me, meat was a frozen patty in a box in the freezer. I hadn’t really thought about the connection until I was ten. That’s when I moved from Toronto, a large metropolis where it’s easy to be removed from the origins of food, to a tiny, farming town in Germany.

Jean and AlineI was already shunning fish. Especially if I’d bite in and see a chunk of scaly skin. I started passing fish sticks under the table to my dog. But when I saw the local butcher kill a pig in the driveway of a neighbor’s house, my meat-eating days ended. I was in the back seat of the family car and we were driving away. To this day, I can picture the scene in slow motion. The blood, the cruel smiles on the kids’ faces as they participated in the event. Ugh. It was a nightmare. I’ve always loved animals and I didn’t want to be part of that.

Fortunately, my family was practically vegetarian. My mother has never liked meat and didn’t object to my change in eating habits. I still ate eggs and cheese and drank milk, but I was becoming a conscientious consumer. I started to learn about food and what we need to be healthy.

The next year, I moved back to Canada. I packed PB&J for lunch and blended in with the other kids. I didn’t make a big deal about my choices and neither did they.

Not everyone thought me being a vegetarian was a good idea. When I was 15, a boyfriend begged me to eat a burger. That’s the only time I’ve fallen for peer pressure. I ate the burger but told him I wouldn’t do that again. He relented. A few months later though, just to be polite, I had a chicken casserole at his mom’s house. I realized that I couldn’t keep “being nice” so I explained to her that I didn’t eat meat and I didn’t lapse again.

My grandmother’s husband said I’d be dead by twenty if I stuck with a vegetarian diet. I called him on my twentieth birthday to remind him that not only was I very much alive, but I’d grown nine inches and gained about 40 pounds since I was ten (gained in a good way–I was tall and slim and healthy). He forgot his warnings though, so I didn’t have the pleasure of gloating.

Being a vegetarian suited me fine. I’d met a couple of vegans when I in college but thought they were a bit extreme. I mean, what was wrong with dairy and eggs? Luckily, in my mid twenties, a friend handed me a copy of John Robbins, Diet for a New America. It’s a book that changed my life. It was absolutely eye-opening. It led me on my path to veganism.

But that’s a post for another day.