The Los Angeles Unified School District announced last fall its decision to pilot a vegan meal program in seven high schools within the district, which is one of the largest in the country. According to the LA School Report, “The vegan pilot idea was championed by former school board president and vegetarian Steve Zimmer, who was voted out of office earlier this year, and sparked by sophomore Lila Copeland, who as an eighth-grader founded the nonprofit Earth Peace Foundation to push for vegan school lunches.”
It started last June, when a “circus of presenters” (as stated by the LA School Report), headlined by Pamela Anderson, came to a LAUSD school board meeting. Anderson, who is happy to state her opinion as fact (even though it’s far from it), was quoted by the media source as telling school board members, “Kids today are appalled to learn that animals killed for cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets live in crowded dark filthy sheds by the thousands and are mutilated and slaughtered by having their throats slit while they’re still conscious.”
Though some of the “celebrities” may have dubious credentials, when Farm Journal's PORK interviewed school officials, they were professional, dedicated and committed to meeting the desires of their students. They responded quickly to our query and provided facts without editorializing their decision to add vegan options.
When contacted in January, the superintendent’s office said the program was expanding to include 35 K-12 schools in the second semester.
“After a 52-day pilot, data showed that 13.4% of the entrees served each day at the seven high schools were vegan,” said Joseph Vaughn, director of the food services division of the Los Angeles Unified School District. He said 31,204 of the 232,183 entrees were vegan over the 52-day pilot.
When asked if calories or protein content were compared between the traditional lunches and the vegan lunches, Vaughn said “calories did not play a role in this pilot program,” and a caloric study wasn’t performed.
“The vegan program is being implemented to provide choices to students who desire vegan or vegetarian dishes,” Vaughn said. “We are not saying it is healthier; we believe all of our food is healthy.”
He added that the cost of the vegan meals was “basically the same” as the normal menu and would have a “minimal impact” on the district’s food costs.
Did Students Like It?
Like you'd expect to hear about any high school cafeteria, some students were happy with the meals, while others weren't.
“The general feedback was positive, but as with any cafeteria menu, some like it and some don’t,” Vaughn said.
As long as schools offer a choice of options, the animal industry has nothing to fear. Some people will prefer meat while others won’t. However, the increase in domestic demand for pork and beef is a sign that the vegan/vegetarian movement is more a fad than a trend.
What the industry does need to watch – and take a proactive stand against – are policies pushed by individuals or groups with an agenda meant to end livestock production or eliminate consumption of meat products. Those motives are likely to continue.
VegNews reports that on the east coast, “1,200 New York public schools now adhere to Meatless Mondays, while several schools—including Brooklyn’s P.S.1—have adopted fully vegetarian menus with the help of vegan Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.”