The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

What Can I Do About Veggie Burgers Being Cooked on the Same Grill with Hamburgers at My School Cafeteria?

Posted on March 21, 2012 by The VRG Blog Editor

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My school cafeteria has veggie burgers but they're cooked on the same grill with hamburgers, which makes me not want to eat them. What can I do?

This is an issue that many vegetarians face. It can be awkward and uncomfortable to voice your concerns, especially in a forum like your high school cafeteria. Do not fear – there are numerous steps you can take to rectify this problem, and people are often more willing to alter their ways than you might think!

If this works for you, one suggestion is to ask whoever it is that does the cooking whether they'd be willing to clean the grill before heating your burger. Make sure to be kind and respectful – they have a lot on their plate! I have made this request even in sandwich shops, and the cooks are always more than happy to create a fresh slate on which to warm my cruelty-free patty.

If that doesn't work, contact your school's foodservice supervisor. If there is a problem with this, or you feel uncomfortable going against the grain, arrange a meeting with the school principal. Explain to the principal that since vegetarian lifestyles are becoming more and more common, it would be good to address this in the cafeteria's menu. The principal will hopefully have the interest to either speak to the cafeteria staff directly, or to schedule a meeting with the direct supervisors of the cafeteria staff about this issue.

If you are not comfortable with just cleaning the grill, you may want to prepare the burger in a microwave. Another idea is to incorporate a separate wok or something of that nature to use atop the general grill for the vegetarian selections. This way you won’t have to endure a microwaved lunch when the hamburgers are prepared in a superior fashion!

Yet another approach you could do is find out from the school principal or vice principal whether your school would be willing to add a vegetarian station, or acquire a new grill – even a small one, for veggie burgers. Think of this as a collaboration – the foodservice supervisors have a great deal of financial restrictions and guidelines that need to be met. Work with them and try to assist in finding a solution that benefits all parties involved. If you feel uncomfortable going to someone like the principal or vice principal on your own, talk to a trusted teacher. The teacher could be willing to broach the subject for you with the school administrators.

If for some reason those you contact are uncooperative (and I don't think they will be), you can move up the ladder and contact the foodservice head at the school district level or your school district's administration about the issue. You could take this on by writing a letter to the superintendent and/or school committee members in your area.

For best results, stay positive and supportive of the school food service staff. Ultimately, you want them to buy into the changes that you are requesting and to feel good about these new ways of doing things. Understand what they are up against. The idea is to help them solve issues and meet needs.

Written by Amanda Matte while interning with VRG

2 to “What Can I Do About Veggie Burgers Being Cooked on the Same Grill with Hamburgers at My School Cafeteria?”

  1. Jenn Francis says:

    Great suggestions! I have had this happen at sandwich shops and people are usually pretty accommodating.
    Keep up the good work VRG!

  2. Excellent article about thoughtful, constructive ways to make a request. Nice focus on being sympathetic and respectful towards others, typical of VRG’s always great work. For an ask in a sandwich shop or restaurant.

    My only question for advocates to consider is whether trying to get a cafeteria to clean the grill each time or buy new equipment is the best place to use precious vegan capital. We foster a reputation of being extreme or difficult sometimes, often in ways that don’t save any animals lives. I don’t say this to be disrespectful of anyone’s preference not to eat off a grill with animal products, but wondering if it’s not an easy response on the other side whether it’s worth it for a bigger interaction.

    Again, great article with many helpful tips to sure to make a difference for people!

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