Editorial: Food for thought: more vegetarian options needed

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Editorial: Food for thought: more vegetarian options needed

Priyanka Anand and Sunny Li

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Each day, hundreds of students purchase lunch and snacks from the cafeteria; however, the number of students has dwindled to approximately a hundred this year due to the relocation of the cafeteria to the snack shack. The cafeteria staff had to make the best of the smaller facilities, hence reducing the variety and quantity of food options. This change affected all students who buy food from the cafeteria, but especially those with dietary restrictions, such as vegetarians.

With the completion of the new cafeteria next school year, better facilities will be available to provide for students’ differing dietary needs, but it is up to the cafeteria staff to make sure vegetarian food options are available daily. Other changes, including clearer display of menu options and increased communication between cafeteria staff and students, will also help to better accommodate vegetarian students.

Currently, the vegetarian lunches sold include sandwiches, salads and pasta. However, only one or two of the total four or five daily options are vegetarian because the availability depends on what the food company delivers to Lynbrook. Despite the presence of these options, the cafeteria may run out of these foods since they can be purchased by all students; thus, vegetarian students who arrive late, for example, may not be able to purchase an appropriate meal.

“By the time one of my friends who is vegetarian goes to the lunch line, there are no vegetarian options many times,” said sophomore Vijaya Kukutla. “Sometimes, even the fruit runs out and there’s just nothing to eat. She’ll try to find something, like a parfait, but there’s a difference between a snack and a meal.”

Another challenge is that the snack shack’s current logistical restrictions, including its limited space to label foods and display menus, have impacted vegetarian students’ ability to purchase food. Without adequate labeling, there may be confusion about which of the available options are vegetarian.

The newly remodeled cafeteria may help solve some of these problems. There, the food services staff will have larger facilities where they will be able to prepare and make food on site, rather than reheating food in the snack shack, giving them more control over the quality and type of food provided to students. For example, after noticing the popularity of soups this year, the cafeteria staff will have a new ten gallon soup kettle that will allow them to make soups from scratch daily.

“The one major change that I’m expecting and hoping to implement is a better quality product because we’re going to be able to control it and we’re going to be here every morning making it,” said Food Services Manager Jason Senior. “I’ll be able to bring in the products that the other schools have because I’ll have the space for it again.”

The area for students to purchase food will become more spacious and organized, making it possible to clearly label vegetarian options and display menus. This will allow students to identify the items available without having to ask the cafeteria workers.

Notifying students weekly about the menu at Lynbrook will help them plan their meals based on the available options. Posting the daily cafeteria options and identifying the diets they are suitable for on the Lynbrook website or sending them out in the weekly newsletters are possible ways of informing students. While lunch menus are currently available on the district website, many students may not be aware of this, and the menu for Lynbrook may differ due to the cafeteria staff adapting to Lynbrook students’ needs. Thus, it would be helpful to update and display a current menu in an accessible location on the Lynbrook website or outside the cafeteria.

Due to the better facilities of the new cafeteria, the staff will also be able to prepare food that better caters to students’ concerns. Though it is necessary for the cafeteria staff to adhere to California State Regulation in regards to the type of food they can provide, the staff is open to incorporating student opinion. Thus, it is important that the students voice their concerns to food services staff and the administration, to ensure that students with all dietary restrictions are accommodated in the cafeteria.  

“I’d like to engage with students, especially the ones with dietary restrictions,” Senior said. “I would like to get more input and see what those students want to see. It is not really about me making the decision. It is about what [the students] want.”

When the next school year begins, students will find a larger variety of options at the cafeteria. To make sure that students see the changes they want, they should openly communicate their opinions and concerns with the food services staff. By doing so, the students and the staff will be able to ensure an inclusive environment for all students at our school.