The student news site of Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, California

The Scribe

The student news site of Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, California

The Scribe

The student news site of Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, California

The Scribe

Beyond the Menu: Closing the Vegetarian Divide

One of Wilcox’s more popular vegetarian options is ‘Rosa’s Pink Pasta with Meatless Crumble” with a side of corn/beans. Courtesy of Anagha Dogiparthi

School breakfasts and lunches have been provided for free to students since the 2021-2022 school year, resulting in fluctuating positive and negative feedback. Although the new, expenseless options mean that students will not need to undergo the extended process of applying for free lunches, many have expressed distaste with the quality of certain meals provided. Although students’ complaints are broad, a primary concern is that vegetarian students are often provided with “unsatisfactory” options compared to their peers who eat meat. 

Of course, these complaints have also varied across the years. During the 2021-2022 school year, options were extremely limited. Some days, students would be forced to resort to options such as cheese pizza, which often ran out due to limited quantities. This period was the first year back after the pandemic, and many students — especially those with dietary restrictions — were unhappy with their options. 

Since then, cafeteria staff have attempted to incorporate more diverse, accommodating options for vegetarians — this includes the Teriyaki Tofu, Meatless Crumble Pasta, and sandwiches. These were only added this year, giving students a wider variety of choices matching their dietary restrictions. Another improvement is the reduction of wait times in lines, which occasionally caused those with limited options to go without any choices whatsoever. 

Still, students have expressed concern with the stark differences in quality between the meat and meatless options, with some describing that they wished there was an equal amount of options provided for both groups. Snikitha Karumudi, a junior, describes that “sometimes the vegetarian options are not on par with the meat options.” Maryam Ismail, also a junior, echoes this perspective by specifically citing that she “wishes there were more packaged salad options available for vegetarians…but we understand that cafeteria staff are working hard to provide diversity.” 

Options are also limited at the Snack Bar specifically, where vegetarians are typically limited to either the “Grilled Cheese” or “Vegetarian Burger” option — whereas those who eat meat are provided with their own separate burger, salad options, soups, sandwiches, and more. For students who have club or other school activities on specific days, the Snack Bar is meant to be an easily accessible location for them to quickly grab food and leave — unfortunately, vegetarian students are often left with only the grilled cheese and sometimes the burger options, while those who eat meat have a plethora of other items to choose from. 

Karen Luna, Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) Director of Nutrition Services, expressed her sympathy for students with grievances around the vegetarian options, stating that “the vegetarian population is about 20% of students, so if [they] have five items, that’s one item [to delegate at the cafeteria] and one-two at the snack bar/pizza line.” She adds that staff try to ensure that the options they are offering are “selling” quickly to limit waste, and that they cannot continue to serve something students are not choosing.As such, they try to gauge which would be the most beneficial for the largest group of students. She is not unaware of the issues surrounding students’ concerns with their choices, and tries to find choices that will appeal to both vegetarian students: “a [student] that eats meat can eat the vegetarian item but a vegetarian [student] cannot eat the meat item.” 

Luna highlights the importance of students providing feedback if they wish to see improvements in the menu. For instance, if multiple students were to express interest in the packaged salad options, it would be something to consider for the following month when they go through the re-adjustment process. The SCUSD Nutrition Services Department has released surveys in the past to gauge students’ satisfaction with the current menus, but have received results as low as 500 responses in a school with over 1800 students, which they believed was not nearly enough to encompass the entire student body. 

If students are interested in providing feedback on the menu, they can email [email protected], access one of the QR codes scattered throughout the cafeteria for students to provide their input, or even speak to one of the staff members directly. 


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