In Rare Move, Students Push For Veggie Burgers

A youth project that aims at protecting animals has prompted kids to push for veggie burgers in their schools. However, despite the move being a friendly one as it will boost the students’ health, school administrators are reluctant to cooperate citing unpopularity of veggie burgers among many students as well as there being other meatless options provided in the school cafeterias.

School administrators are in a dilemma as contingents of students continue to push to get veggie burgers in school cafeterias which are a challenge to sell. The students’ efforts are part of a project of peta2, a youth division of the PETA animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Virginia. Additionally, they come at a time when schools are being pushed by the federal government to provide healthier lunch and breakfast meals by limiting calories, salt, sugar and fat.

Aiming to get rid of junk food and curbing child obesity, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrition standards on snacks and beverages will take effect next year. Foods sold at schools will include light popcorn, fruit cups, granola bars with fruit and nuts, and other healthy snacks, instead of high-calorie, sugary doughnuts, chocolate bars and cookies; so-called smart snacks,

About three years ago was when peta2’s project was started. Across the country, “More and more schools are adding veggie burgers and vegetarian options,” said Whitney Calk, a peta2 youth campaigns project manager. “They are becoming more and more mainstream.”

Earlier this year, a school in New York went beyond a few meatless items, switching to vegetarian-only meals. Despite not beingconnected to the veggie burger campaign, Calk was delighted with the effort saying it’s “just proof that this is catching on”. School food administrators in Illinois said that students have several meatless choices, from grilled cheese and veggie deli sandwiches to soups, salads, pasta, burritos and pizza, though veggie burgers are still unpopular. In addition, meatless patties haven’t been a hit at the middle and high schools according to director of food services in Elmhurst’s School District 205, Cheryl Spencer.

“We have tried them per request of a few people and did offer them for quite a while without any success in serving them, even to the ones who requested the veggie burgers in the first place,” she said.

Veggie burgers aren’t going fast in Plainfield-based School District 202 according to Linda Porth, who oversees the district’s food service, provided by Sodexo.

“If we make three a day, we will throw two away,” Porth said.

Veggie burgers aren’t on the school menu as a result, but, “When someone requests a veggie burger, we make it to order.”

According to Diane Rado of the Chicago Tribune, officials from Chicago Public Schools said that veggie burgers aren’t on the menu in the district, though other meatless options are available, among them peanut butter and jelly, salads and hot dishes such as a bean burrito or rice with vegetables. Veggie burgers, among other meatless options that include vegetarian sandwiches, wraps, tacos, a salad bar and veggie pizza are offered at the New Trier Township High School District.