Vegetarians Seek Viable Options at Lunctime


Students at Rhinebeck are constantly encouraged to stand up for what they believe in.

Announcements remind them daily of meetings for Environmental club, Gay-Straight Alliance, and No Place for Hate. 

While representation for diversity in school lunch options may seem minor compared to the causes above, it is still something that deserves to be advocated for.

I became a vegetarian in early 2021. It has rarely crossed my mind to start eating meat again. The exception is When I choose my meal for school lunch.

I eat during the 8th period of the day. I have to race to the lunch line to get what’s left of the prepackaged lunches in case I can’t eat the hot lunch. 

Usually, my only source of protein is a pb&j or a yogurt. At least 3 times a week, there is nothing left for me. 

I talked to Senior and fellow vegetarian Sarah-Anne Szabo on this subject. She said that she has to run between Sth and 6th period to get snacks.

“By 8th period, it’s all gone and they don’t refill the bowl,” said Szabo. 

Usually, I’m stuck just asking for salad on my plate. Portions are small and unsatisfying, and I don’t want to pay for a second lunch. 

I noticed that there are often much larger pre-packaged salads, but alas, they all contain chicken or ham. 

Rhinebeck’s online lunch menu says there’s a daily vegetarian option of a PB&J an American cheese sandwich. 

I was shocked to read this. 

I was seeing these sandwiches maybe once a week, twice if I was lucky. 

How could this be?

My question was answered one day while taking a Regents exam during school.

After finishing testing, we were permitted to go to lunch during 5th period. As I waited in line, I noticed that the prepackaged lunch section of 5th period looks drastically different from that of 8th period.

There were boxes of pita chips and hummus, stacks of yogurts, and low and behold, the holy grail: a huge bowl filled with Uncrustables.

Where had they been all my life?

The next thing that amazed me, was the fact that my meal of breadsticks did not taste like they had been holding onto every possible morsel of heat. I was excited to go back for 8th period, eager for more.

When 8th period rolled around, I was filled with disappointment.

The breadsticks had been replaced with sad cold little mozzarella sticks.

Sure, I would take those over meat any day, but why should I have to settle for a mediocre option?

For months I have had to deal with sub par lunches, accepting that after I eat, I will not feel full, I will have slim chances of getting protein, and that my meal won’t always be hot.

My biggest frustration was that there were good options being served to other students each day, but not me.

I  talked to another friend, Milu Cokonis, and she sympathized with Me: 

“Either you have to buy a ton of snacks that are all just filled with sugar, or you get the regular meal with no meat, which is just…chips

I decided that in order to resolve this problem, I needed to go straight to the source.

I met with Larry Anthony, Food Services Director of Rhinebeck, Redhook, and Pine Plains schools K-12.

In our conversation, I brought up my concern that there is a lack of vegetarian options.

Together, we looked at the school menu, and Mr. Anthony informed me that about 40% of the meal plan every day is vegetarian.

While this sounds like good odds, that 40% was mainly vegetables.

I told Anthony that while these options are added with good intention, they are simply not filling enough

“It’s not enough, I agree with you,” said Anthony.

For the first time in months, I felt like this conversation could actually go somewhere.

Mr. Anthony promised to talk to the kitchen staff about including more vegetarian options with filling components such as beans, cheese, or rice.

I also brought up my issue with the 3 meals not being warm enough. Anthony agreed with me.

“If you get it off the line it should be ready to go. You should have to simply sit down and enjoy it.” said Anthony.

In the weeks after our meeting, I have noticed that the kitchen staff has made vegetarian options nearly every day like hot bean chili with cheese on top.

Some of the staff members have even asked me personally what lunch options I would enjoy eating more often.

Anthony is continuing to visit food showcases that advertise vegetarian burgers and nuggets.

He is also looking for better grain products that can be brought to school districts.

If there is a better effort to add more diversity into meals, students in Rhinebeck, Red Hook, and Pine Plains will all be positively impacted.

It is my hope that we will see better vegetarian options for school lunch soon.