SNA survey shows 22 percent jump in five years.
Almost two thirds of school nutrition programs now offer a vegetarian school lunch on a consistent basis, up from 22% in 2003, according to the School Nutrition Association's soon to be released 2009 School Nutrition Operations Report. The findings were presented at the National Conference on Childhood Obesity in Washington, DC, in mid-June.
SNA has tracked vegetarian meal choices in schools since 2003 as part of the School Nutrition Operations Report conducted every two years. The series of Reports, based on surveys of 1,200 school nutrition directors nationally, found that the number of schools offering vegetarian meals rose from 22.3% in 2003 to 63.9% in 2009 and increased over 12% since 2007.
The 2009 Report also found that 20.5% of school nutrition programs offer vegan meal options. Not surprisingly, these types of meal options are most common at the high school level and least common at the elementary school level.
Vegetarian school lunches include entree salads and vegetarian pizza with whole grain crust as well as beans and rice, chef salads with yogurt and sunflower seeds, cheese stuffed shells, vegetable hoagies (with 2 cheeses, red and green pepper strips, cucumber, lettuce, and tomato) and lentil sauce with pasta.
The survey also found that school nutrition directors cite the cost of vegetarian items as a significant barrier to making these choices available. To help address the problem, SNA is calling for an increase of 35 cents in the federal school lunch reimbursement as part of the 2009 child nutrition reauthorization process in Congress.