Left with an unsatisfied palette

Junior+Domonic+Cavin+%28left%29+sitting+next+to+junior+Lannah+Garcia+%28right%29+who+is+eating+school+lunch.+She+eats+outside+of+the+700s+buildings+with+several+of+her+friends.+

Grace Na

Junior Domonic Cavin (left) sitting next to junior Lannah Garcia (right) who is eating school lunch. She eats outside of the 700s buildings with several of her friends.

The bell rings and countless hungry students rush to the lunch lines. Waiting restlessly, their stomachs grumble. They finally reach the front of the lines only to find out there are no options for them, pescatarians, vegans, vegetarians and those with other dietary restrictions are left with no food alternatives.On Nov. 18, the Crusader polled 693 Bonita Vista High (BVH) students, 15 percent of them identified as: vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian and/or more. The lack of selection prevents these students from eating most cafeteria food. 

“The goal for [the board] is to provide a healthy and nutritious meal to every person on campus,”  Director of Nutrition Services for Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) Eric Span said.  

Out of the students surveyed, 36 percent have missed five or more meals because of their dietary restrictions. At BVH, the menu typically consists of cheeseburgers, chicken caesar salad and pepperoni pizza—options that do not accommodate all student’s diets.

Alternative options like meatless salads and vegan burritos are not presented to students. For instance, pescatarian and senior Charlene Steward feels that the cafeteria does not provide any lunch alternatives. This upsets Steward because she is left with nothing to eat.

“I’ll ask ‘Do you have something meatless’ [to the cafeteria workers] because I am a pescatarian and they’ll respond with ‘Oh no, we’re sorry’ then tell me to pick two sides,” Steward said. “I think it is important to have options for everyone […] so no one [is] left out.” 

One of the lunch ladies at BVH, Stephanie Chavez, mentioned that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic there were many options for people with dietary restrictions. The school [BVH] provided ceviche for pescatarian students, but now options similar to this are disappearing. 

“I want to know how many vegetarians and vegans are on campus [so] we can design items for those students,” Span said. “Once we [modify the menu] for vegan and vegetarian items, students are going to eat the food.”

Span and his crew are trying to incorporate new and diverse items including various pasta dishes, different types of sandwiches, and alternative burger patties.

“We’re [SUHSD] in a great time [and] your [students] district is really committed too. We want to make sure that we’re treating [the student’s needs based on their dietary restrictions],” Span said.

Bonita Vista High (BVH) students are saddened when they find out that the school does not offer vegetarian, pescatarian
and vegan friendly meals. Therefore, they are forced to skip their meals to abide by their dietary restrictions. (Stephanie Liang )

According to Span, SUHSD has a dietary intern who is in charge of selecting the food provided to the district. She wants to make vegan and vegetarian food options available for students 

“[I want] nutrition services to provide the highest quality food sources, and that food comes out to everyone, not just vegetarians,” Span said.

International Baccalaureate Environmental Systems and Societies and Biology teacher Jennifer Ekstein want’s to see cafeteria foods that can accommodate vegetarians and vegans.. Due to influence from her faith and her decision to eat economically and ecologically, she chose to become a vegetarian. 

“I fully feel there needs to be more options, especially for our students who are logically minded [and see the] consequences of climate change. Food waste is number three on drawdown when it comes to climate change solutions,” Ekstein said. “I hope there will be a reduction in things [like] animal fats and protein since they are not healthy and linked to higher rates [of health conditions] like diabetes and cardiovascular issues.” 

Accompanied by the support from students and staff, SUHSD is working on more choices that are not just exclusive to those with dietary limitations. These options will be made available to all students.

That’s why I am hoping we [SUHSD] can create a team of students [where they] can sit down together and throw out some ideas and options that [they] would like,” Span said. “[For] specifically the vegetarians and vegans, we could create those items along with items that we currently serve and do some taste tests. Let’s come up with some options that students like [together].