An article in The Baltimore Sun reported on the Maryland State Board of Education’s intention to vote on new nutritional standards for schools. Vending machines that contain foods of minimal nutritional value—mainly soda and candy—would not be turned on until after school hours. Ironically, more than 20 years ago, Debra was working on a similar issue when she volunteered for the New York PIRG (Public Interest Research Group). Yes, change may take a long time. But it can happen, and it often does in baby steps.
Concerning other school lunch changes, The Baltimore Sun article included one county food and nutrition operations supervisor stating, “We’re apprehensive. We don’t want angry kids.” However, another Maryland county’s staff indicated that, after making healthy changes, “For the most part, the kids buy what’s there…” In Montgomery County, Maryland, all snacks except nuts sold in the cafeteria must have no more than 7 grams of fat. Other than water, beverages can’t be larger than 16 ounces. Fruit drinks must have a minimum of 20 percent juice, a required percentage that will rise over time, and sports drinks, such as Gatorade, can only be sold next to gyms, not in the cafeteria.
In nearby Howard County, middle schools have stopped offering French fries as extra portions, which forces students to choose from a greater variety of foods when purchasing their lunches. To appease complaining pupils, the County has introduced 100 percent fruit juice smoothies. Baltimore County schools have begun offering baked chips, in addition to the usual fried variety. And one Maryland school set up a vending machine with healthy snacks, from which baked pita bread chips in various flavors have become a hit.
For activists and parents who want schools to introduce healthier foods, changes are happening, but there is a long way to go. School food service personnel face many, many obstacles and countless demands, and changes may not always mean vegetarian or vegan options. In this issue of Vegetarian Journal, we have an article by intern Christina Niklas. As part of her Master’s in Public Health assignment with VRG, she interviewed 25 school food service staff to learn about the reality of vegetarian meals in schools from their point of view. The interview subjects share simple tips that may assist other food services in change and that may give activists and parents the school’s perspective. This story is here.
We will be handing out this issue of Vegetarian Journal at the annual meeting of the School Nutrition Association (American School Food Service Association). If you are a food service worker or an involved parent, please share with us your experiences in serving vegetarian foods, both the positive accomplishments and any obstacles that need to be overcome.
Debra Wasserman & Charles Stahler
Coordinators of The Vegetarian Resource Group
The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone who wishes to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.
Thanks to volunteer Stephanie Schueler for converting this article to HTML.
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