What’s in our school diet? Rice and beans could be the key to more sustainable community eating

To normalize eating plant-based meals and to improve our school’s sustainability, we encourage the kitchen to include a fully vegan meal (containing no meat, dairy, or eggs) as the hot entrée at least once every two weeks. The sandwich bar, pasta bar, and salad bar could still contain meat, as our objective is not to prevent anyone from eating meat but to encourage the community to try eating a regular meal without animal products.

Eating a regular vegan entrée could seriously help the Upper School (US) improve its efforts to promote sustainability and preserve the environment. As the Eco-Reps informed us through flyers in bathrooms, one day of one person eating vegan can save 1,100 gallons of water, 30 square feet of forest, and the life of an animal. This data is consistent with research from Climactic Change, World Resources Institute, and The Vegan Calculator. By eating vegan meals as a community on a regular basis, we would save an enormous amount of resources, even if we continue to eat animal products for the rest of our meals.

Taking part in a vegan meal as a community—as opposed to just encouraging students and faculty to avoid animal products—would also show at least some of us that eating food without animal products can be just as filling and satisfying as eating food with animal products. 

Regularly offering beans and rice, or making beans and rice the basis of a more elaborate meal, could accomplish these aims. Beans and rice are inexpensive yet nutritious. Together they contain all of the nine essential amino acids found in animal proteins, making them an easy and healthy alternative to meat or dairy. Other tasty vegan entrées are pasta with butternut squash, hummus and falafel, and vegetable stew.

Director of Dining Services Keith Jones said that while he didn’t want to make sudden changes that would alienate meat-eaters, he is seriously considering having meatless meals or completely vegan meals in the near future. He said the survey he circulated last spring revealed many students’ passion for sustainability and produced feedback on how the kitchen could improve sustainability by reducing the use of animal products. Rice and beans are a viable option, he agreed, especially when served with tasty toppings like guacamole, onions, and peppers. He also suggested that rice and beans could become a more regular installation as a base for more elaborate meals and as a healthier and more substantial option than the pasta and sauce served now.

As a community committed to fighting climate change and promoting sustainable living, we have a responsibility to limit the amount of animal products we eat on a daily basis. Incorporating entirely vegan lunches into the regular rotation would make us a healthier and greener school.

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