Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free students at a loss for food options at PRHS
Chicken sandwiches, bean burritos, and pizza slices are offered everyday at the cafeteria, but vegetarian bacon, gluten free bread, and soy cheese are not as readily available. Imagine not eating meat, dairy, or gluten products, which are classic ingredients included in the average American’s diet according to Dietary Guidelines. Students who have these food restrictions walk up to the lunch line and are not able to order the majority of the offered food.
For vegans who don’t eat animal products, for vegetarians who don’t eat meat, and for gluten free students who don’t eat bread products , foods that they are able to eat are not as easily accessible, and therefore most just end up packing their own sack lunch, according to junior Kaelynn Stolz.
Stolz was diagnosed with Celiac Disease when she was two years old and had to conform to a strict gluten free diet for the past 15 years. Because of this Stolz cannot eat wheat, rye, barley, oats, and malt. For school lunch, she is unable to buy a meal at school because of the limited options for her diet, so instead she bring lunch from home. A typical meal she brings includes a sandwich made with gluten free bread.
The majority of parents who have a vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free child send their kids to school with homemade lunches because that is the only way they can eat a nutritious, plant-based, animal free, or gluten free meal at school, according to The Vegetarian Resource Group. However, if there is a time when the student has a late sports game or has plans and cannot make a lunch for the next day, schools cannot provide a substantial meal for them. There are “quite a bit of vegans and vegetarians in this school, it’s very common now so we should have more options”, senior Rachael Zollo said, who is vegan along with her twin brother Eric Zollo.
“I don’t buy lunch [at school] because there is nothing except for fruit and lays chips and that is it”, Zollo said.
She believes that the variety of foods for vegans and vegetarians is limited to spring rolls and fries, and for gluten free students, fruit is only available. Because of these limited options, Zollo brings her own lunch everyday.
Her lunches include:“vegan tacos, Buddha bowls with rice, vegetables, tappe, and sandwiches with vegan meat”, Zollo stated.
Former cafeteria lady, Margie Shepherd stated that she used to make vegan burgers for the vegan students on campus. Shepherd also said her mashed potatoes were cooked with water and the gravy made with water, flour, and oil making it vegan and vegetarian friendly. However, there aren’t the same exceptions for gluten free students.
Overall the food options for vegans, vegetarians, and gluten free students in the cafeteria are extremely limited and options for these students could lead to a more productive classroom. According to a toll taken in 2014 by The Vegetarian Resource Group the amount of vegan and vegetarian teens in the U.S. was 4 percent, this is a huge percent just for teenagers
One thing the school could do is have a signup list for students who need a specially made lunch. The cafeteria could make the meals similar to the everyday options but use gluten free bread, vegan cheese, and vegetarian meat on needed amount of meals. This would help the students who might not have enough time to make a lunch everyday or at least have an option to buy food at school.