When one walks into most modern-day restaurants, they can expect to find food options that suit their dietary needs. Everyone is entitled to a meal, regardless of whether or not they eat meat, even though select privileged groups are often the only ones with access to vegetarian and vegan food options. However, at Berkeley High School, vegetarian and vegan lunches should be the norm, not a privilege.
One may argue that instead of limiting food options to just plant-based ones, BHS should prioritize having a wide variety of options that satisfy all student’s dietary needs.
While every individual has their own food preferences, most vegetarian and vegan students at BHS follow those diets for environmental reasons. By cutting out meat at school altogether, BHS could end up making critical positive impacts on the planet.
The animals that humans breed for food emit countless amounts of methane and physical waste, and when that enters the atmosphere, the Earth gets warmer. According to a United Nations’ study in 2006, the combined climate change emissions of animals bred for their meat were about 18 percent of the world’s total. In addition, The Guardian states that livestock feeds on over 30 percent of the planet’s non-ice covered land. Animals subsequently end up over-grazing, leading to soil erosion, desertification, and loss of the land’s fertility. Meat also requires drastically high amounts of water to produce, in comparison to vegetables and grains. For example, it takes around 60 pounds of water to produce one pound of potatoes, but more than 20,000 pounds of water to produce a pound of beef. That water could be going toward combating deforestation or to families facing droughts, both of which are increasing due to climate change in the first place.
With these facts considered, eating meat is clearly harming our planet at an alarming rate, with meat production contributing to global warming, destruction of land, and the increasing scarcity of water. This proves that we as consumers must change the way in which we consume if we want to keep the earth alive.
The number of vegetarian and vegan students at BHS and in the general world is increasing. By providing students with plant-based meals, BHS could help provide students with the opportunity to benefit the planet when they might not be able to otherwise.
BHS is well aware of the benefits of plant-based diets. However, if our community is not using that reputation for good, what is the point of having it at all? Only around 14 percent of American schools even offer plant-based lunches, with much fewer schools offering only plant-based lunches, showing that most places are not brave enough to act this drastically. The climate crisis, however, needs drastic action. Berkeley has the opportunity to be a catalyst for the future of our planet, and this needs to start with school lunches.