Thoughts From The Ten Percent

The signs throughout the cafeteria show graphics illustrating the dietary needs for good health. Thornton claims that there are options for everyone.  But I have found that it is nearly impossible to get a nutritious meal being a vegetarian. On most days the only option is a small garden salad, peanut butter and fluff sandwiches, fries, and occasionally a slice of cheese pizza or a veggie burger. Even when the hot meal could easily have a vegetarian option there is a seldom one provided. An example of this would be on a day that the hot lunch option is a burritos; the vegetarian option would be as simple as heating up some black beans. One of the most common responses to this problem is ‘don’t you only eat vegetables and fruits anyway?’

Not only does that question make vegetarians’ eyes roll but also it is also completely false.

The lack of non-meat lunch options doesn’t just affect one person. According to the British Dietetic Association, 10 percent of teenage girls between the ages of 15-18 are either vegetarian or vegan. 1 percent of boys between the ages of 15-18 are either vegetarian or vegan. This data suggests that approximately 154 of 1400 students who attend Thornton Academy are vegetarians. When fried chicken is at the core of nearly every option, the school is not just slacking on one person’s meal, but leaving 154 people without a good lunch option. Changing options to be more inclusive could be good for all students.

Congress has spent the last few years trying to battle the large epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, one third of children were obese or overweight in 2012. Between taxpayers, the government, and individuals, we have spent 200 billion in medical costs due to obesity. When in reality, we are causing the problems. If we listen to these three facts, and cut meat out then we would stop fighting ourselves, but instead the epidemic at hand.

There are a number of things we cannot afford to ignore moving forward:

1: We must start serving healthier lunch options for vegetarians. When I was walking through the cafeteria on December 3, the only options for vegetarians were peanut butter and fluff/jelly sandwiches, French fries, and there was two salads that did not include any meat product., Most of the vegetarian options were extremely high in sodium, contained little to no protein, vegetables, and/or fruit.

2: We need to acknowledge that processed meat is potentially dangerous to all of our health. A recent study done by the World Health Organization found that processed meats such as bacon, sausages, and hotdogs can cause cancer. The study also found that beef, pork, veal, and lamb are also most likely carcinogenic to people. WHO concluded that processed meat is in the same category of cancer as tobacco.

3: Participating in Meatless Monday is an excellent start. The Animal Rights Club at Thornton proposed a new idea of a Meatless Monday. The idea was instead of people having to give up meat completely, that they just got one day out of the week.

The reactions to Meatless Monday were outrageous. The club presented the idea at a recent school meeting and throughout the crowd you could hear people making side comments about how they weren’t giving up their bacon, how the club was dumb, and that there was no good reason for them to give up meat even though the club had presented many different reasons (from helping the environment, to morals, to even health) why taking a pledge to not eat meat on Mondays would benefit everyone.

Maybe asking all students and faculty member to participate in Meatless Monday seems mind-blowing to those who haven’t considered the idea but we wouldn’t be the first school to go vegetarian for a day. In fact, Active Learning Elementary School in Queens, New York has switched from serving meat to becoming a completely vegetarian school. Active Learning Elementary School has refused to serve processed meats because of the side effects it causes. The school wants to be able to serve lean meats but at this time the school does not have the money to do so and they are unable to get the funding to do so. Until economic options present themselves, they made the bold move to cut meat entirely. Since the school went vegetarian, the students have started testing better and are much more alert in school. The students are allowed to bring meat to school if they choose to do so, but according to the students, they seem to have embraced the vegetarian lunches.

People are scared of change. Everyone has their own rituals and their item that they get for lunch everyday, but considering meat options, it is worth a small period of discomfort if it has the potential to kick-start a lifetime of healthy habits. We do not encourage smokers to continue smoking but instead educate them to stop before they develop cancer, yet we are turning a blind eye to recent research that shows cancer can be caused by processed meats. Even if you decide to skip meat for one day, you are on the road to helping out not only yourself and the environment.

I became a vegetarian when I was five years old. Our family had decided to go vegetarian because one of my sisters had realized that bacon came from pigs and pigs were one of her favorite animals. When I was thirteen, my family went vegan because of health related reasons. My sister and mother are both lactose intolerant, so when we became vegan, they both began to feel a lot better and were much more active. We also went vegan because while we were visiting our grandparents, we went to a petting zoo that served dairy. My little brother, who was six at the time, had fallen in love with one of the recently born cows. The owner of the farm told my mother that all the new cows were being bought off soon to turn into meat. When we left the cow was whimpering and my brother was in tears. Although, we originally went vegetarian and vegan for our love of animals, our health has dramatically improved.

There have never really been a lot of food options for me when I am at school or when I am at restaurant. There are a lot of problems going on in the world currently, problems that are often much too big for one school in Saco, Maine to solve. But paying more attention to what we eat is not are of those problems. Serving lunch options that cater to everyone is not that difficult. Our students cannot function properly and excel in school if they are not being provided with the food that they need to consume to do so.

My hope by the time I graduate at the end of this year, I find that students and staff take a risk and embrace Meatless Monday. Ultimately I hope in the near future, we begin to see more options for those who do not eat meat every day of the week.


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