Conversation and debate surround the important topic of school meals and how to best provide not only healthy food, but healthy lifestyles, to students. Here is one unusual case of how schools might choose to deal with the issue: a preschool went vegan.
In 2010, Germerud-Sharp, a former au pair from Sweden, started a school that maintains a strict vegan diet in their school meals. She opened the school when she couldn’t find one that she liked for her daughter.
This Scandinavian School in Jersey City started with four students and a vegetarian menu. A few years and 90 students later, they decided to take things one step further. Now the school serves only vegan food.
But being vegan doesn’t mean tasteless food. Though they eat no meat or dairy, their dietitian, and chef, Manija Mayel comes up with delicious recipe ideas.
“Basic dishes that children enjoy eating but always keeping in mind to put different colors and flavors and textures,” Mayel said in a Fox News article.
While little data exists on the long-term vegan diet affects on children, some people still doubt whether it is healthy for young kids who need calcium and vitamin D. But, at least a vegan diet would provide more fruits and vegetables not unlike the food package provided by USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children(WIC) in 2009 that intended to improve school children’s diets. Vegetables remain essential to a healthy diet but, in general, children don’t eat enough.
But this school is helping more than just the kids’ diets, it’s giving them knowledge and life habits. This school even has a garden where students learn the food-making process; students help make their own organic almond milk and participate daily in preparation of the food, which is then served family style.
Parents who eat vegan at home seek out this school for their kids. But those who aren’t noticed a difference in their children’s eating habits. These children come home from school talking about quinoa and chickpeas. In this way the children are changing their parents’ diets as well.
One in five children in our country enter elementary school overweight and so many other negative risks exist with poor diets. So a healthy diet is crucial, especially for preschool children. When raised on a healthy diet from a young age, the children tend to stick with it through their lives. And so, whether or not a vegan diet would benefit kids in the long-run, it’s something for our country and its schools to consider.