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Lunch Lady Land Goes Vegetarian

By jeannesager |

school-lunchWarning: I’m about to age myself. In my day (when we walked uphill both ways), the vegetarian kids could “buy” once a week – Friday, also known as “oh happy pizza day.”

The rest of the time, we brown bagged it while our classmates indulged in brown mystery meat and grayish slabs of turkey with even grayer mashed potatoes.

Flash forward a few decades, and not only has the American Dietetic Association put its A-OK on letting your kids go veg, but lunch lady land is getting hip to the dilemma of feeding more than the carnivores. The school lunch has officially gone vegetarian.

A report from the School Nutrition Association shows a forty percent rise since 2003 in the number of schools offering vegetarian fare – they say at least two in three schools is serving up meat-free options. This follows an announcement just last month from the ADA that vegetarian diets can be good for people of ALL ages, provided they’re well thought out.

As a vegetarian adult, one-time vegetarian teen, I dare say that one follows the other. Forced to eat the “sides” as my meal was not exactly well balanced, something I see looking back but accepted as my fate as a teen. Even pizza day was a nod more to the overwhelming Catholic majority in my school (a throwback, I can only assume from the days when no meat was eaten on Fridays in my hometown) than it was to those of us turning our noses up at the beef.

If school lunches can incorporate healthy alternatives for vegetarians, they can prevent the non meat-eating kids from opting for the snack table in order to fill their tummies.

Not to mention making it easier for parents of vegetarian kids who don’t have a lot of money: the story in the U.S. News and World Report that makes note of the change also addresses the increasing squeeze the economy is putting on the cafeteria with the number of kids applying for free and reduced lunches on the upswing. For kids who don’t have the cash to buy, don’t have food from home, plus diet restrictions, this could be a godsend.

Does your kids’ school offer them veggie meals?

Image: Tiffany Washko via Flickr

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About jeannesager



Jeanne Sager is a freelance writer and photographer living in upstate New York with her husband and daughter, Jillian. She maintains a blog of her award-winning columns at

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