Our Veggie-Friendly School: Why I Never Leave Hungry


Caleb Meranus

Alternative to pork buns: mixed green salad

When I was in elementary school, I had chickens, and I always got the question, “Did you eat them?” This confused me—why would I eat my pets? We don’t eat our dogs or cats, and I had the same relationship with my chickens as I had with my dog. It felt okay for me to eat the chicken I got at the supermarket because it was just a piece of meat; it didn’t feel like I was eating a real animal. 

But my mom showed me a picture of a chicken farm with dozens of chickens in very small cages. I didn’t understand how humans could take these amazing creatures that I grew up with and put them in cages and eat them. We don’t put dogs, hamsters, or parrots in tiny cages, so why did we do it to chickens, pigs, and rabbits?

Before my mom showed me this picture, I had always thought the chickens we ate had died naturally or at least lived a good life. But reality slapped me hard, and I decided to stop eating meat. 

When I went to middle school, I was shocked by the school lunches. In elementary school, I always brought my lunch from home. But when I went to middle school, I had to take the bus, and I found I had very little time to make lunch. So I decided to start buying school lunches.

The main food they served was meat, but on the rare occasion that there was vegetarian food, it was either pizza or nachos. I found the vegetarian options rather foul, and I don’t know anyone who would eat them. Their veggie patties were frozen solid, and the veggie dogs were wet and squishy. 

In eighth grade, I came to the School in the midst of COVID-19. We had to eat with our desks six feet apart, without talking to each other. The food was definitely a step up from public school, but it became very repetitive. In ninth grade, COVID-19 was better, and we started eating in the cafeteria. I was so excited to have normal school lunch again. 

Since ninth grade, I’ve eaten school lunch every day. The School always has vegetarian options, with lots of variety and different kinds of protein. Even if I don’t want to eat what is being served, I can make myself a sandwich with lots of protein and nutrients.

The School offers Tofu Bao Buns on Thursday. (Caleb Meranus)

Meat is a huge source of protein, and when I was younger, I found myself eating dairy or soy every day, which isn’t theoretically bad, but it means I wasn’t getting any sustained protein. It’s taken me years to figure out how to eat healthily, and I still have a long way to go. 

Luckily, my family and the School have helped me a lot. My mom is also vegetarian, and she has helped by cooking great meals at home that our whole family enjoys. At School, lunch no longer feels like a place where I’m insecure about my diet.

In the past, a lot of people I knew would make me feel bad about being vegetarian by saying that I ate nothing or that I was starving myself.  My sister has shared a similar experience at home and at school.

My sister Stella has been vegetarian for most of her life due to our family’s choices and her own. She loves cooking and eating food from many different corners of the world. 

“I’ve also had a lot of struggles with other people being like, ‘why aren’t you eating’ and I think it’s just a big misunderstanding that lots of people think that there’s nothing you can eat,” Stella said. “You just have to find the right places and the right options.” 

Stella appreciates the School making an effort to find healthy and delicious vegetarian options. 

“I think that they provide a great vegetarian option, which is sometimes hard to find, especially going out to eat in certain places,” Stella said. “It’s definitely a struggle, but I appreciate how they always have a vegan or vegetarian option.” 

My friend Clara Johnson ‘25 has been a pescatarian since she was in fifth grade when she went up to Maine. She enjoyed the seafood in Maine so much but found the meat unfresh. After that point, she decided she would be happy to cut meat out of her diet. Johnson also enjoys the vegetarian options at School. 

“Sometimes I feel like the vegetarian option actually looks better than the normal option because it’s just so flavorful and healthy,” Johnson said. 

Bowman agrees that the School offers great meat substitutes. 

“I think it’s just really unnecessary to be eating or harming animals when there are so many other amazing and delicious options,” Stella said. 

Stella feels very strongly about animal consumption, especially its environmental impact. She believes that our world would be a better place if animals weren’t eaten. 

“I believe that in a perfect world, animals would not be harmed or eaten at all. But I know that there are people with dietary restrictions or don’t want to become vegetarian, and I wouldn’t force that [vegetarianism] on anybody,” Stella said. “It’s their choice.” 

Johnson also feels that cutting out meat will improve your diet and encourage you to eat healthier food. 

“I would definitely urge other people to become pescetarian because you just eat so organically and it’s really good to know that your food is all ethically sourced,” Johnson said. “It’s also helped me to branch out and try different kinds of food.” 

“I definitely struggle going out to eat in restaurants with finding what I want on the menu that actually looks appealing and doesn’t include meat,” Stella said. 

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Johnson’s family also cooks a large amount of vegetarian food, so she never has trouble eating at home, compared to eating out. 

“Sometimes it’s really hard to find a good protein that’s really flavorful and quick and easy,” Johnson said. “Tofu is really good, but it can take a while to make, and sometimes it can taste bland.”

Students who don’t eat meat commonly share the same appreciation for the School lunch and offer thanks to the kitchen staff for accommodating everyone’s dietary restrictions. 

Vegetarianism is stigmatized by a large number of people who believe that vegetarians have unhealthy diets and don’t eat a lot. However, quite the opposite is true. Being vegetarian has helped me eat healthier while keeping my morals intact. I’ve always been a huge supporter of human rights, from animal testing to safe farming. I encourage everyone to think about their diet and where the food they’re eating comes from.