Remember the mystery meat served up in your school cafeteria? These days, more schools are ditching the hamburger hash and ham spreads and replacing them with fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. Fifty schools in the United States are now participating in Meatless Monday, and some have progressed to being completely vegan.
One of these vegan schools is MUSE School in Southern California, founded by director James Cameron and his wife. (The Camerons themselves became vegans last year.) The school’s philosophy is that they can reduce their carbon footprint by eating sustainably; cattle are the largest consumers of water, and emit massive amounts of methane.
On the east coast, a preschool called The Scandinavian School of Jersey City, New Jersey, went vegan after two vegan children enrolled.
The Rochester River School, a K-through-12 in Rochester, New York, was established in 2014 and is committed to sustainable community development. They provide humane education and are completely vegan. They will be growing their produce on their property.
The Nature School in Milan is Italy’s first vegan kindergarten. They cite their love and respect for animals as the reasons they have eliminated meat, eggs and dairy from their meals.
Maharishi University (yes, that Maharishi) in Iowa is the first United States establishment of high learning to offer organic vegetarian and vegan meals created with ingredients grown by local farmers.
PETA2 surveyed college students and compiled a list of the most vegan-friendly schools. They noted that since 2013, the number of schools graded an A for availability of vegan foods on campuses has more than doubled and the number of schools given a B grade has more than tripled. Stanford University and Oberlin College were the 2015 winners, and you can search for each college’s score on their website.
By providing nutritious, plant-based meals, these schools are helping build a healthier generation. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents since the 1980s. These children are at risk for bone and joint problems, poor self-esteem, sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and pre-diabetes. Many become obese adults who may suffer from heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and strokes.
The media bombards children constantly with billboards, commercials, and online and print advertisements leaving them craving bacon, fried chicken, ice cream and other unhealthy, unsustainable foods. Educating youth about vegan options can help lead to a lifetime of good food choices.
Lux Research states that there’s more interest now than ever before in plant-based diets. Factory farms (99% of all farms) are cruel warehouse-like facilities where animals are bred to suffer in unconscionable conditions, often without enough space to even turn around or stretch. The animals are killed in even more horrifying ways. With half of all crops in the U.S. going to feed livestock, not people, animal agriculture is grossly wasteful, and ultimately not sustainable in a world of growing consumerism.
Restaurants and markets are also offering an increasing number of plant-based food options, from vegan mayo to meatless chicken, “ribs,” ground beef and soyrizo. Right now 5% of Americans are vegetarians or vegans (up from one percent in 2009) – that’s sixteen million people, and the number is set to grow.
As each supermarket, restaurant, school, hospital or office shifts toward veganism we take a step toward saving our planet, ending the exploitation and suffering of animals, and living healthier lives.