The MUSE School – all vegan, Calabasas, California.

One private early childhood-12 school in southern California has gone all the way, eliminating all meat and animal products from its cafeteria and offering an entirely plant-based menu.

The MUSE School in Calabasas, California, is believed to be the first primary or secondary school in the nation to go entirely vegan.

MUSE was founded by actress Suzy Amis Cameron and her sister Rebecca Amis in 2006, with a focus on sustainability. According to spokeswoman Jennifer Mau, MUSE’s board and administration made the decision to go vegan last spring; all lettuce and nearly half of the produce will be sourced from on-campus gardens and greenhouses thanks to the school’s seed-to-table initiative, which grows about 200 different varieties.

MUSE was already moving toward the change, serving entirely plant-based meals one day a week to its 150 students beginning in September 2013. Last fall, it upped that number to two days a week, plus two days of vegetarian-friendly fare.

Parents’ response to the initiative has been largely positive, Mau says.

“The way we eat is the easiest and most impactful way we can alter our carbon footprint as a school,” MUSE’s head of school Jeff King said in a statement. “The largest consumers of water are not people but cattle. To truly deliver our mission of sustainability, we had to find a sustainable way of eating. The answer was to create our ‘One Meal a Day for the Planet’ program — plant-based lunches and snacks — for our students.”

Nutritionists interviewed applauded MUSE’s move away from the typically highly processed foods and drinks that too often remain standard American cafeteria fare. Going vegan not only has an environmental impact, but also a health one — reducing risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, as well as curbing obesity.

A vegan diet is in line with the health world’s recommendation to eat mostly (fruits, vegetables, and grains), nuts and seeds, and In order to be successful and healthy ought to offer a variety of choices. Menus must be planned to be adequate in calories, protein, and variety.

Mau, noting that students are only eating one meal a day at MUSE, said school officials are very careful about their approach to plant-based proteins in an effort to ensure the meals are as nutritious as possible.

Between healthy eating and physical exercise and improved student behaviour and academic performance. It’s evidence, that MUSE’s efforts are beneficial for their students in ways beyond their physical health.

Many more schools are now becoming aware of the key benefits that a vegan meal plan offers it’s students, and are preparing to follow suit.

A step in the right direction

Public schools generally do not have very many healthy food options for children to choose from, however, recently we’ve seen changes with some schools across the nation. It appears that there are a few schools making more effort to go above and beyond to serve healthier lunch options, such as the Lincoln Public schools. While this is great, we need to see more of it.

In fact, one teacher from the Bronx is making healthy eating fun and educational for his students and now we find two public schools in New York have taken their school menu much more seriously!

Two New York Public schools adopted a 100% vegetarian menu

In January 2013, Public School 244 in Queens, New York was the first school in the nation to adopt a 100% vegetarian menu, serving kids tofu wraps, veggie chili, fresh fruits, and more. At first the school wanted to offer healthier food options and they took in parents’ and other school officials’ opinions into consideration.

This school started serving vegetarian meals three times a week, then increased it to four times a week. It was such a success that the school went 100% vegetarian every single day! Principal Robert Groff says, “We believe that, if we taught kids to make healthy choices, it would help them to grow as students and well-rounded children.”

Apparently this success has reached out to Peck Slip School in lower Manhattan, New York. Amie Hamlin, the executive director of New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, says, “More schools are asking for vegetarian menus, in order to increase their students’ intake of whole plant foods, which they understand are associated with lower BMI, better health, less sick days, and increased concentration.”

Improved test scores and longer attention span

After Public School 244 have implemented an all-vegetarian menu, the school officials not only noticed that the kids love eating the food from the cafeteria, but also have shown improved test scores and longer attention spans. What’s interesting is that even though kids can bring food from home, approximately 90% of them prefer eating from the cafeteria!

After results proved themselves, Peck Slip School’s principal, Maggie Siena, decided to get on board with the action as well. She says, “We decided to implement the vegetarian menu because of the health benefits of a diet including more legumes, vegetables, and whole grains and our concerns about the environmental impact of meat production.”

“Not only is it beneficial, but delicious too! “As it turns out the vegetarian dishes are pretty delicious, too – we are seeing more kids trying and liking chickpeas, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta. Kale salad was a huge hit,” says Siena.

A rising number of vegetarians and vegans

The numbers of vegetarians and vegans are on the rise, whether it’s for health, environmental, or animal rights issues. When it comes to health, more people are realizing how vital whole foods are to keeping us strong and productive, especially for young children. Schools are recognizing it much more than ever before and the results prove it.

The New York Coalition for Health School Food, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to teach and implement a whole-foods diet in schools across the New York City area, has been involved in the development of a vegetarian menu for both of these public schools.

Sources for this article include:

(1) www.ecorazzi.com
(2) www.cbsnews.com
(3) www.ecorazzi.com
(4) www.ecorazzi.com
(5) www.healthyschoolfood.org