NHS Vegetarian and Vegan Lunch Options Explored

Kiana Valeri, Student of Journalism

“It’s not a diet. It’s not a phase.

It’s a permanent lifestyle change.”

— Anonymous

I am Kiana Valeri a 15-year-old sophomore, and I am a vegetarian as well as another 31 percent of people in this world who live their life the way I live mine.  According to recent article entitled, “375 million vegetarians worldwide” featured in EXPONet, I want to celebrate my green lifestyle and make sure people are aware of us.

Daily, I get asked:  Why? Why are you a vegetarian?

Moreover, my answer is simple — for animal rights.

I can almost guarantee, the majority of other vegetarians or vegans answer similarly. Choosing to live with this lifestyle is not easy, making sure to get the right amount of protein for muscles. Making sure not to lose muscle mass, it will always be worth it.

One problem that I encounter every day as I live this lifestyle is; there are never enough options. Not many people take us into account when they are discussing their menus, from fast food places to  “high end” restaurants, or the NHS cafeteria.

As a vegetarian, my daily consumption includes:  asparagus to lettuce,  strawberries to raspberries and protein shakes to Almond Joy.  I consume an outrageous amount of noodles, which is pretty basic. 

Thus I am here to find a solution to my problem because with this particular lifestyle, individuals tend to hit a wall.

To address the wall I face at the NHS cafeteria, I went to Jill Cascarano, Chartwells Food & Nutrition Services Director, and posed a question:  How should NHS service the students with this lifestyle at lunch?

We discussed the different factors and rules Chartwell needs to follow while crafting the school menu. One item it uses is “Smart Snacks Product Calculator,” which is a calculator that has a series of questions to determine if it meets the USDA’S Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards.

When attending NHS lunches, patrons notice many varieties of food including the salad bar, packages vegetables and packaged salads.

People wonder what I am talking about when I say “there are never enough options.” Since the lunches are so crammed with kids talking, coughing, even sneezing by and over the salad bar, which tends to be the only items at lunch kids with my lifestyle can eat, vegetarians do not want to eat it anymore.

Mentioning this to Cascarano, she told me “they try their best to watch for that and immediately change the products from the salad bar for the other student’s benefits,” which did help calm my nerves as we discussed the situation.

But back in the lunchroom, I feel anxious when I am in the salad bar area, and I do not want to make use out of the salad bar.

Unfortunately, the packaged salads are not meat-free, so I ask for a change.  Can I have more options?

“NHS is not aware of the vegetarians or vegans who attend their school lunch,” Cascarano explains that Chartwell always tries its best to provide numerous options for all of the individuals who come to lunch.

Cascarano also cares for all the students who eat NHS lunches, which is why she is going to become aware and welcomes feedback.

Our resolution to my request is that Cascarano will “try her best to provide prepared salads with no meat product in it, as well as packaged vegetables that have different varieties of veggies in them to fit all of our needs.”

Lastly, she mentioned, to make sure she hits the sweet spot, she will provide fruits for the students who are not only vegetarian or vegan at school lunches, but for everyone’s sweet tooth.