A week of school lunch as a vegetarian

Jacki Petrow, Editor-in-Chief

As a vegetarian, finding filling and tasty food can be difficult, a problem just as prevalent in public schools as the rest of our meat-centered culture. These options are limited further for vegan students, as vegetarian and vegan students make up an estimated 1/20 teenagers. 

As an elementary and middle schooler, I got school lunch every day for years and years, a habit that made me hesitant to become vegetarian and limit my lunch options. When Covid hit, I seized the opportunity and stopped eating any meat, but when I returned to school the first day I found that my only vegetarian option was an Uncrustable. 

So I began packing a lunch every day, at least, until recently, when I decided to spend a week exploring our cafeteria’s vegetarian options. Spoiler alert- Uncrustables were difficult to avoid.

Monday- 1/10

It was Monday, and not off to a great start. The cheese stick was so dry, and the apple was incredibly soft.

I forgot to get dressing for the salad, which was my own fault, but overall the meal just wasn’t satisfying, probably largely because Uncrustables are so small. I’ve never disliked these mini peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but they’re not filling and, without good sides, result in an insubstantial meal.


Tuesday- 4/10

For those questioning why my ranking is so high for an incredibly floppy piece of pizza, the key lies inside. More specifically, inside the crust. That stuffed crust, a small shell full of perfect, melty cheese, absolutely carried this meal for me. 

I also kind of liked the strawberries, maybe because eating frozen things is fun, or maybe because they taste more like sugar than strawberries, but nevertheless this proved to be a solid meal.


Wednesday- 5/10

To make sure that I would show all the options available to vegetarian students here, I went through different cafeteria lines on different days, which on this day held a surprise. Instead of walking into the typical food options, here I found the salad bar. 

Honestly, I had no idea that these foods were offered in the cafeteria. It was my favorite meal so far, possibly partially due to the surprise of finding, among other fruits and vegetables, cantaloupe being served here. 

Granted, they only got half points for a few reasons. First of all, it’s winter and so, understandably, none of it was quite ripe. The second and much larger issue was just how empty my stomach seemed after eating. This meal was not filling.


Thursday- 2/10

My expectations for this meal were set too high after I saw the fries.  Despite what my hungry self had hoped for, they were cold and disappointing, and seeing those around me eating full hamburgers made me, with my third uncrustable, wish for a more satisfying protein. The pear was okay.


Friday- 9/10

The last day of this endeavor I dragged myself into the cafeteria, feeling sure of a less than satisfying meal in my near future and glad that it was the last one. However, that attitude flipped completely the moment I saw what was being served: quesadillas. 

The school’s quesadillas are excellent. Just undeniably delicious. This absolutely was the best meal of the week, and the only reason I had to subtract a point was because the apple was soft and I really don’t like soft apples. The cookie was okay. The quesadilla was warm and cheesy and satisfying.

Looking back on the week, there were vegetarian options served every day, although it was somewhat limited. If a vegetarian student didn’t like Uncrustables, they’d probably have to bring their own lunch. Either way, I would recommend packing food, but that’s not a feasible option for everyone. 

Despite challenges to implementing more vegetarian options in schools, it is important to consider all kinds of appetites, and make efforts to insure options for everyone.