A new trend has started in the unlikeliest of places - the deep South, which has been long known for its fried, fatty foods and higher rates of heart attacks and strokes than other parts of the country.
For years, the typical meatless items one can find in U. S. high school cafeterias include only bland salads, fruits and cheese pizza. However, as observed by Miriam Archibong, founder of Grady High School Vegetarian Club in Atlanta, Georgia, salads are not sufficient to survive on, and “Cheese pizza - that’s not healthy because of all that grease.” This lack of choice frustrated Miriam, as it did many other vegetarian students, so they looked to expand the vegetarian selections in their high school cafeteria.
Two years ago, the vegetarian club reached their goal - Grady High School became one of the first schools in the country to have a separate vegetarian-only lunch line with a menu that featured such varied items as veggie rolls, pasta salad, veggie burgers, vegetarian pizza and sloppy joes made of tofu. The vegetarian-only lunch line was originally designed for the 30 Vegetarian Club student members, but it quickly gained popularity and meat-eaters have also jumped in line. The cafeteria now serves vegetarian entrees to up to 400 of the school’s 1,200 students each day. Non-vegetarian students who graze in the vegetarian line said they like having better non-meat choices.
Grady High School’s vegetarian-only lunch line is believed to be one of the first in the country. High schools on the west coast are now considering vegetarian food items for their cafeterias. Schools in Eugene, Oregon, and in other progressive, health-conscious cities of the Pacific Northwest are beginning to look to Atlanta’s example, said Tom Callahan, senior vice president of Sodexho Inc., the company that provides Grady’s food service. Emphasis in the past was simply on providing meatless options, Callahan said. But last year his company brought the separate vegetarian menu to Eugene, “and now we’re starting to see some momentum building.”
Considering that 30 percent of the nation’s children are either overweight or obese, this latest trend in school cafeterias looks promising to many health officials who are concerned about what children eat. Not only that, having healthier options in school cafeterias has solved another problem: lunchtime is no longer something to avoid, as unattractive, unappetizing meal options are becoming a thing of the past.