Plant-Based Lunch Options Recommended

Cierra Robinson-Barron

‘Chaug’s World Care Club is working with the cafeteria to have more plant-based options for students. 

“I would definitely try out all of the vegan options if there were more,” said ‘Chaug senior Veronica Nault, who’s also a vegetarian.

The World Care Club is a group of ‘Chaug students that care about the environment and advocate for environmental improvements, both worldwide and local. Recently, they have been discussing more food options for vegetarians and vegans, who do not eat, drink, or wear any animal-originated products. They mainly eat vegetables, nuts, fruits, and grains. 

Plant-based lifestyles have potential health benefits, which include reducing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, premature death, and more, according to Alina Petre, a registered dietician who specializes in plant-based diets.

Writing on, Petre said that veganism can also help people avoid antibiotics and hormones used in modern animal agriculture. 

Also, the CDC states that one in three children will experience type 2 diabetes during their lifetime and plant-based meals promote better health because they are free of cholesterol, low in saturated fat, and full of fiber (“Healthy School Foods,” the non-profit organization, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine).

Melissa Doe, a physical education teacher at Minnechaug and the advisor of the World Care Club, said that club members are working with ‘Chaug’s head nutritionist to come up with plant-based options for the cafeteria.

Doe, a plant-based eater herself, said that she hopes there would be at least a couple of offers. Yet, the school would need to find out what students want to prevent uneaten food from being thrown out. 

“It’s trying to find that balance so that we don’t have waste as well,” Does said.

Right now, the cafeteria offers peanut butter and jelly Uncrustables, pasta without red and white sauce options, and sometimes a bean burrito bowl and veggie wraps. They also have salads that tend to have cheese therefore not making them vegan. 

Doe and members of the World Care Club suggested high protein, plant-based food such as vegan soup, black bean burgers, hummus wraps, salad with chickpeas, etc. An example of a vegan soup would be a red lentil soup. The lentils would add protein and fiber to tomato soup.

“I think that not only vegans or plant-based eaters would eat that, but people who would just want to skip a day of meat or want to try something new,” Doe said. 

Julie Dougal, ‘Chaug’s head nutritionist, said that the cafeteria is very open to any suggestions. “I would love to hear from students what options they would be interested in,” she said.

Dougal explained that in the past they used to offer more vegan and vegetarian options, but not many students took them, and consequently, they stopped offering them.

Likewise, they used to offer veggie burgers, but ended up having to throw them away, too.  It becomes a sort of self-fulfilling problem. “So it’s kind of that catch 22 and then kids don’t think we have [options],” she said.

Dougal said a great obstacle comes with vegan options. 

“Vegan is a little harder than vegetarian because of the no dairy. There is a requirement in the National School Lunch Program that we do offer protein with every meal. So it’s hard to find vegan meals with protein.”

There is some precedence for serving plant-based food. For example, the Santa Barbara Unified School District, (SBUSD), offers such options. 

“Of the 2 million meals SBUSD serves every year, approximately 50 percent of the meals are vegan. The plant-based options often sell out more quickly than the meat-based meals!” according to an article on the website for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

In New York City, schools offer no-meat days on Monday. According to the same article, New York City serves plant-based meals exclusively to 1 million students on Mondays as part of its Meatless Monday’s Campaign and the district also offers plant-based foods at every school.

Doe likes the idea of a meatless day. “One of my ideal situations is to have a meatless Monday at school,” she said. “Just one day where everybody just has something different. It’s a cool concept.”

She hopes some of these ideas will become a reality.

“Our conversation has already started and my hope is that moving forward, we can get a little more variety,” Doe said.