A hunger for more plant-based school lunch options

QYouth Climate Movement, QCAN’s youth chapter, has been working to bring more vegetarian and vegan lunch options into QPS schools. More than a third of the world’s greenhouse gases come from food production, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Beef has by far the largest carbon footprint, followed by lamb, mutton, and dairy. Scientists say that a shift in our diets is necessary if we hope to keep global warming under 1.5ºC.

QYouth approached Quincy Public Schools Nutrition Director Sara Dufour to offer help with a transition to more plant-based options. She suggested we conduct a survey to gauge student interest. QYouth collected over 950 responses from students in all grades about their diet, how often they eat school lunches, and what foods they find most appealing. Fifty percent of students surveyed eat school lunches several times a month, and another 10% eat school lunch about once a month. Forty-five percent of students will eat both plant-based and meat meals; 16% are vegan, vegetarian, or prefer plant-based meals; and 20% prefer a mix of plant-based and meat meals. Some of the most appealing foods were cheese pizza, fresh fruits and veggies, sandwiches, cheese quesadillas, and yogurt and granola. Fifteen percent of students reported that they would definitely eat school lunch more often if there were more plant-based options, and 55% would eat school lunch more often depending on the food offered. Students noted that plant-based meals offer more accessibility to students with health restrictions and religious dietary observances.

Based on the survey results, Ms. Dufour was able to understand students’ preferences and has invited QYouth to taste-test two new lunch possibilities for next year: vegetarian nuggets and black bean patties. Thank you to all of the students who participated in the survey, and a huge thank you to Ms. Dufour for working with us!

Photo: Laura Taylor, (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0)

– Maya Dijkstra, QYouth Climate Movement