Vegan School Breakfast and Lunch Options
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There are over 50 million Pre-K-12 students in the United States public school system. The United States public school system serves 30 million school lunches and 14 million breakfasts everyday. There are collectively over 5 billion lunches and 2 billion breakfasts served annually.
The lunch and breakfast options in our public schools all contain meat and dairy. In a growing society of vegans and vegetarians this must be changed to reflect our progression to ethical, sustainable, and, healthy food choices. It is time for all schools in the United States to take responsibility and offer students healthy, environmentally conscious, and, ethical food choices. Please offer one vegan breakfast and lunch option for all public school students in the United States.
In my teaching experience, I have seen students get sick and vomit after eating dairy yogurt for breakfast or hamburgers for lunch. I have also seen a child almost choke eating a hamburger. There are documented cases, such as, Ciera Santiago, 8, Juan Loera, 9, and, Aizeya Mattocks 8, that have choked on hot dogs at school. Also, Jesse Tucker, 15, died after choking on a piece of hamburger and Audi Anderson, 4, choked on a meatball at school. Meat options can pose serious child safety issues.
There are many students that don’t like the options offered for breakfast and lunch and throw the food in the garbage. Also, there are students that do not eat the meat or dairy options and are left eating plain bread or a banana for lunch. A banana or bread for lunch does not have enough calories or nutrients to sustain a vegan or vegetarian student during the school day. The students need vegan and vegetarian options, such as, rice, beans, tofu, and, pasta. And other lunch options could be vegan burgers and vegan pizza that are healthier than the meat and dairy versions. There could be oatmeal, non-dairy yogurts made of almonds, cashews, and, coconut milk with fruits offered for breakfast. And, non-dairy milk can be offered for students who don’t drink dairy milk. These vegan and vegetarian options will provide the calories and nutrients needed to ensure optimal engagement and performance in school activities.
According to the American Heart Association, childhood obesity is the number one health concern for parents in the United States. We live in a country that is concerned about obesity and heath related diseases. There is research on the health benefits of vegan diets. According to Winston J. Craig’s, “compared with other vegetarians, vegans are thinner, have lower total and LDL cholesterol, and modestly lower blood pressure. This is true not only for whites; work by Toohey showed that blood lipids and body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2) were significantly lower in African American vegans than in lacto-ovo vegetarians. Similarly, among Latin Americans, vegetarians had lower plasma lipids than did their omnivore counterparts, with the lowest reported among vegans. In that study, plasma total and LDL cholesterol were 32% and 44% lower among vegans than among omnivores. Because obesity is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the substantially lower mean BMI observed in vegans may be an important protective factor for lowering blood lipids and reducing the risk of heart disease.” A vegan diet can prevent childhood obesity and health related diseases.
Public school lunch and breakfast options should also be environmentally conscious. According to the United Nations, greenhouse gas emissions are rising and have doubled in the past 50 years. “The largest source of emissions within agriculture is enteric fermentation – methane produced by livestock during digestion and released via belches. In 2011, this accounted for 39 per cent of the sector's total greenhouse gas outputs and increased 11 per cent between 2001 and 2011.” According to Livestock Science, “eating less or no livestock products, such as meat, is seen often as a possible solution to reduce the environmental impact of the livestock sector.” Livestock Science also stated, “a balanced plant-based diet can provide us with all the nutrients required for a healthy life.”
Furthermore, our school’s food choices should be ethical. An important lesson that schools teach children is to embrace differences and show compassion for others. It is time for schools to extend the circle of compassion to all sentient beings and include non-human animals. We can not expect children to embrace differences within each other when we allow school lunch and breakfast choices to include animals that are exploited and sentenced to death because they are different than humans and companion animals, such as, dogs and cats. We must align our actions to our morals because our future depends on it. As Marc Bekoff stated, “Nurture and provide the seeds of compassion, empathy, and love with all the nutrients they need to develop deep respect for, and kinship with, the universe. All people, other animals, human communities, and environments now and in the future, will benefit greatly by developing and maintaining heart-felt compassion that is as reflexive as breathing. Compassion begets compassion there's no doubt about it.”
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