Virginia Student Transforms School Lunch Menu—and Her Mother’s Health
Nina Gonzalez, a junior at Stafford High School in Falmouth, Va., went vegetarian during her freshman year. But her school didn’t make it easy. The cafeteria had almost no options for her or for other students looking for a meatless meal. While visiting a neighboring school, she found vegetarian foods in the lunch line and soymilk in vending machines. Nina was determined to get these same healthful options in her own school.
After researching the dietary requirements for school meals, Nina started talking to food service personnel, students, and teachers. She learned a lot. Student athletes wanted healthier, lighter options instead of the meaty entrées that weighed them down before games. Other students wanted vegetarian options to provide more freedom in the lunch line.
Nina met with her school’s nutrition director to present her ideas, and they arranged a taste testing. Her school quickly recognized that students wanted healthy vegetarian foods and agreed that adding these options would improve the menu for everyone. The new meals were a huge success. Nina’s favorite is a pita filled with hummus and veggies.
Nina also took the healthy food message to her family’s dinner table. Her mother, Rosa, had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and Nina encouraged her to try a plant-based diet to improve her health. Rosa took Nina’s advice and had amazing results: She went from size 18 pants to size 6, and her hemoglobin A1C (an index of blood sugar control) level plummeted from 14.5 to 5.
Nina now attends school board meetings, speaks at government listening sessions, and distributes information to spread the word about healthy vegetarian diets. To find out how you can get involved, please go to HealthySchoolLunches.org.