Vegetarian students go hungry due to lack of options


The RHS salad bar offeres a small selection of fruits and vegatables.

The National School Lunch Program, also known as NSLP, was signed into place in 1946 by President Harry Truman. This program is an undeniable good, because without it millions of children would have gone hungry.

The USDA, short for United States Department of Agriculture, requires these NSLP meals to meet the nutritional requirements set by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This standard is also another undeniable good, because without it, children could very well end up having to eat fast food everyday in order to not go hungry, since that would have been a cheap option for schools to make. This requirement keeps children not just fed, but fed with health in mind.

House Bill 4089, which takes effect on August 1, 2023 will require schools to provide vegetarian and vegan options upon a student’s request. Vegetarian and vegan students, while still able to request more vegetarian and vegan options without this bill, can easily have varying luck depending on the school. This bill is finally the last undeniable good that will be mentioned here, as this will see to it that vegetarian and vegan students who have been left to go hungry in the past will now be able to eat alongside their peers.

There is a very small flaw in this bill, however, and that is the fact that a student must request there to be more vegetarian and vegan options rather than vegetarian and vegan options simply being required to be there.

According to a vegetarian junior here at Roseburg High School, they have given up on getting a school provided lunch. “I just can’t get there in time to get nachos, or anything else really, that I can ask for no meat in. I tried to get there earlier, but I’m just too far from the cafeteria. I gave up trying to get lunch after about the fourth time of them running out.”

When the student was asked if they knew that they could send in a request for more vegetarian and vegan options, they said they did not know that they could do that. They went on to say that House Bill 4089 is flawed. 

“I’m glad that it exists, but I don’t see why they can’t just have something already set aside that vegetarians can eat. It’s kind of dumb that I have to ask for it. Even kids who do eat meat might appreciate having something different every now and then rather than having to choose between a burger or nachos everyday.”

Even non-vegetarian or vegan students have taken notice of the struggle these students face when trying to get lunch. Jay Evans, a junior with no dietary restrictions, says, “I know multiple people who have nothing they can eat because they have restrictions and there aren’t any options just for vegetarians, vegans, or people with allergies.”

Here at Roseburg High School, we have a variety of lunch options: hamburgers, chicken burgers, nachos, pizza, and more. The full lunch menu can be found on the Roseburg Public Schools website.

On a smaller campus, with maybe only a few hundred students, there would be enough of the vegetarian and vegan options to go around, but this is not a small campus.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Roseburg High School currently has a student population 1,558. Divide that in half as Roseburg High School has two lunch periods, and there are roughly 779 students (give or take a few dozen to account for those who do not eat lunch, and for those who bring their own) who have to wait in line for lunch.

As of now, there are just not enough vegetarian or vegan options to feed the students with those restrictions when there are hundreds of more students without those dietary restrictions picking away at those options.

Students without dietary restrictions are not in the wrong for their decision to eat healthier, however, and they are not the reason why certain students are going without. They also have every right to eat what they want to without guilt or shame, be it meat or veggies. There just needs to be more vegetarian and vegan options for everyone, for those with and without restrictions to eat what they either want to need.

The NSLP, USDA requirements, and House Bill 4089 are all good things, there is no doubt about that. Children deserve to be fed, and fed healthily, and this applies to vegetarian and vegan students too. The fact that the Bill needs a request to be made for those options to be there rather than just being a requirement for it is more likely an oversight than anything else.

Or maybe too many people view providing meals for vegetarian and vegan students as something extreme rather than a viable way to keep kids fed, so pushing for there to be a stronger requirement would not be an easy fight. Either way, there is still a flaw in the system that is leaving some kid going hungry, and it needs to be fixed.

Just requiring schools to provide one or two vegetarian and vegan options would result in a lot more kids being able to eat alongside their peers. Even having a higher abundance of options like nachos that can be customized meat-free would help feed more students overall.

This story originally appeared in the print edition of the Orange R in December 2023.