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  • Writer's pictureCecilia Fonseca

Should Vegan/Vegetarian Food be Implemented in the School Menu?

Currently, about 14% of the world's population is vegan, and all plant-based meat and other vegan alternatives make up nearly 8% of global protein foods. Vegans and vegetarians are only increasing in number and have become the fastest-growing lifestyle movement ("there are 3.5times as many vegans as there were in 2006"). For this reason, vegetarian and vegan foods should start to be implemented and thought of when making menus for schools, restaurants, etc., all over the world.

A vegetarian person is one who does not eat any kind of meat that comes from an animal. On the other hand, vegans do not eat any animal-based products. Therefore, vegans can't eat food like dairy, eggs, honey, etc. Both vegetarians and vegans may have this lifestyle for health reasons, religion, morals, or, in some cases, because they simply don't like to eat these foods. Still, both diets are very refined and need special attention to be done and followed properly.

Unfortunately, many schools in Belo Horizonte still don't have menus focused on vegan or vegetarian people. In the cases where schools do, the options are usually vegetarian, where the implementation of vegan food is still not very common. However, in 2019, the City Hall of Belo Horizonte committed to strengthening the nutritional quality and including vegetarian options in the lunch of municipal schools and some popular restaurants. According to the Secretary of Education, "We already have a varied menu that meets the needs of our students, including in specific cases, such as intolerance or allergy to certain foods. We have special diets for children with gluten and lactose intolerance and others. Now we have signed this term of commitment to reinforce the nutritional power of school meals with more vegetarian options."

In the American School of Belo Horizonte, both lunch and snacks have vegan and vegetarian options, even if they are limited. For example, during Snack Time, there are usually bread, cereal carts, and fruit (the only thing vegans can eat) available. However, at lunch, for example, the school offers two choices of meat, salad, carbohydrates, and eggs. Although there are some food options with no meat or with no animal origin and a special menu for vegetarians, there are multiple days where students such as Bruna Inácio, a vegetarian senior, "only [eats] rice, beans, and eggs due to the lack of options without any meat". She claims: "the school could have more lunch options for vegetarians that goes beyond eggs. The school's lunch is currently not made thinking of vegans/vegetarians and it seems like it is always an afterthought".

Contrary to what Bruna said, Constanza Lemos, a vegan senior, believes that the school does try to include vegans like her by having lots of salad options, for example, but after all, she doesn't have the "diversity in terms of food compared to the rest of the students". For lunch during the week, she eats salad, rice, and beans. However, she says that Aline, the cafeteria manager, "takes [her] veganism very much into consideration, so on days that the school offers noodles for the students, for example, Aline offers [her] a vegan noodle. The school even used to have a menu of both snacks and vegan lunch options, but this year the distributor stopped delivering them to EABH.

In conclusion, even though the school has tried to implement both vegetarian and vegan foods in its menu, this should be a topic that is solved more objectively so that students like Bruna and Constanza can have the same options and even varieties as other students. However, for this to happen the school menu would have to change, and we might have to give up some of the food currently offered. This may cause interventions from students or even teachers, but it would be one of the measures that should be taken for the implementation of vegan/vegetarian food

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