Cafeteria Menus

I’m so glad that you want vegetarian and vegan menu options at your school cafeteria. Having these menu options in your cafeteria has many benefits:

  • Plant-based menu options will give your fellow vegetarians and vegans more to eat, and will help students interested in vegetarianism transition to a plant-based diet.
  • Delicious plant-based options will raise awareness on the deliciousness of vegetarian and vegan foods.
  • Vegetarian and vegan options will make your school more animal, environment, and health friendly.

Changing your school’s cafeteria is probably easier than you think. You just need to follow these steps, and persevere!

1. First, do your research and planning:

You will need to a lot of research.

Here are some ideas on things to research:

  • Look at your school’s menu in advance. Make a list of all the vegetarian and vegan options that your school currently serves. Make a list of items that can be easily made vegetarian or vegan.
  • Go to the cafeteria with a notepad and make a list of all the foods served.
  • Research your school’s budget to figure out the amount of money allotted to food.
  • Learn what your school has already done in the past to become more environmentally friendly and health-friendly.
  • Read this entire article about the National School Lunch Program. This is not necessary for college students, or for students who live outside of the USA.

Here’s a list of things to ask for:

  • Ask for one vegetarian option per day. Better yet, ask for one vegan option per day.
  • Ask for meatless Mondays. If they say no, ask for half of the foods they serve on Monday to be meatless.
  • Ask for vegan sides. Many sides, like mashed potatoes, can easily be made vegan without sacrificing cost or taste.
  • Ask them to replace chicken stock with vegetable stock.
  • Ask them to offer plant milks, like soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, or coconut milk. These additions will also help those who are lactose intolerant.
  • Ask for veggie burgers.
  • Ask for vegan spaghetti sauce, like tomato sauce or olive oil.
  • Ask for pizza without cheese, or pizza with vegan cheese.
  • Ask for burritos, tacos and enchiladas with beans, veggie meats, or tofu.
  • Ask to add vegetarian protein sources, like beans or tofu, to the salad bar.

Look at this list of vegetarian foods for more ideas.

See these links for vegetarian and vegan cafeteria recipes:

2. Contact the person in charge of the cafeteria system and schedule an appointment to talk about vegetarian menu options.

You might need to search around a bit to find this person. Depending on the school you attend, this person might be in charge of just your school’s food system, or your entire county’s food system. If you are in college, this person might be in charge of your dining hall. They will be probably be called something like cafeteria director, food director, nutrition services director, or something along those lines. Search through your school’s online directories to find this person, and keep asking around.

Once you find this person, you need to persistent until you make an appointment.

3. Have the appointment!

Bring this fact sheet and list of of vegetarian and vegan food manufacturers and distributors to the meeting.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Work with your school’s lunch administration, and not against them. They probably have your best interests at heart. They probably are interested in adding vegetarian and vegan options to your school cafeteria, but are concerned about the cost and other practical matters.
  • Due the obesity epidemic and people’s concerns in health, emphasize the health benefits of vegetarian foods.

Common Complaints:

Complaint:

Vegetarian and vegan food is too expensive or hard to find.

Your response:

There are plenty of manufacturers and distributors that sell vegetarian and vegan foods at comparable prices to meat and animal products.

Complaint:

No one will buy vegetarian, let alone vegan, foods.

Your response:

If the food tastes good, look goods, and is advertised well, people will buy them. Look to the list in step seven for ideas on promoting vegetarian options in your cafeteria.

Complaint:

We can’t reach USDA guidelines with vegetarian and vegan options. (If you live outside of the USA, or are in college, don’t worry about this argument.)

Your Response:

Show them this link about vegetarian cafeteria entrees, this link that explains the guidelines, and page three of this link that tells you how to meet the guidelines.

Send a thank you note after the meeting.

4. If they say no, start a petition.

 Try to get at least a hundred people to sign it. Even non-vegetarians can sign it, because you don’t have to be vegetarian to agree that everyone, no matter their dietary restriction, should have something to eat in their cafeteria. Keep persevering.

Here are some petitioning ideas:

  • Give everyone in your club a petition signing sheet, and ask them to ask their classmates to sign before class starts.
  • Go in front of your school during breaks between classes.
  • Ask for signatures in front of your school cafeteria

5. Once you have officially added new menu options, congratulate yourself. Go eat a vegan cupcake.

When I asked for vegetarian and vegan options with my school club, after our first try, we got cous-cous salad, black bean wraps, falafel, and vegan tomato sauce.

6. Check the cafeteria to make sure that the new options are actually added to the menu.

7. Promote the new vegetarian and vegan options. 

Here are some ways to promote them:

  • Write a letter to your school newspaper, or even your local newspaper.
  • Ask your cafeteria to label vegetarian and vegan foods with something like “V.”
  • Give out free samples.
  • Put posters around the cafeteria.
  • Make a commercial for your school’s announcements.
  • Raise awareness on factory farming, so that people know why there are new vegetarian and vegan options.

8. Once you finally add more options, after a little while, if you want, return back to step one and try to get even more options!

See these links for more advice:

PCRM’s Guide to Getting Healthy School Lunches

Vegetarian Foodservice Advice

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution