Aramark offers new vegetarian meal options on Mondays

Laaiba Mahmood, News Editor

This month, Aramark, Naperville Central’s food services provider, has begun serving vegetarian meals at the start of each week as part of a campaign known as Meatless Mondays.

Junior Erin Fang, who also considers herself an environmentalist, was motivated to advocate for vegetarian lunch options at school after learning about the negative effects of beef consumption when convincing her journalism class to stop eating burgers through a persuasive speech. 

“As I was doing research for [the speech] I kept on getting more and more information that beef was bad for the environment and for your health and for the future,” Fang said.

In September 2017, Fang learned of a nationwide campaign entitled Meatless Mondays and decided to start the campaign at Central.

“I had to pick up something that would bring awareness to the school,” Fang said. “Not only for the environmentalist reasons, but also because I feel like at this school there aren’t many vegetarian options anyways. So I thought I could open that up to all the people at our school who are vegetarian or vegan and don’t buy school lunch because they don’t have options.”

In order to implement the campaign at Central, Fang worked with Dennis Lange, the Aramark high school manager.

Lange also worked in conjunction with Fang to select vegetarian meal options from a database of predeveloped Aramark recipes to include on monthly surveys. At the end of each month there will be a survey with meal options for the following month that students will be able to vote for. The most popular item will be served each Monday of that month.

“We gave Erin a few recipes we have and let her choose which ones to have the students vote on,” Lange said. “We could have just picked a few out ourselves but we wanted to know that if we put it out for lunch, students will end up eating it.”

Despite the recent introduction of this campaign, this isn’t the first time Aramark has had vegetarian meal options for students. They have always provided some vegetarian options for students to purchase.

“Each station in the cafeteria has vegetarian options,” Lange said. “Cheese pizza, nachos with beans and rice, and vegetable wrap are a few examples. When we put out combo salads in the coolers, we will make a few vegetarian ones as well and the hummus combo meal is vegetarian too.”

Aramark nutritionist Emily Meier shared that there were past attempts to sell vegetarian meals which resulted in waste because of unpopularity.

“They had tried veggie burgers in the past,” Meier said. “Kids just didn’t even take them so that was a lot of food waste.”

Meier also mentioned that being vegetarian isn’t the only way to eat healthy and that regardless of diet preferences, it’s important to consume healthy foods.

She explains how vegetarian meals aren’t always necessarily the healthiest. It’s a matter of consuming diverse meals that contain many nutrients. 

“It’s good to differentiate between what is a healthy food and vegetarian because they’re not necessarily the same thing,” Meier said. “You can have a vegetarian item that’s just full of sugar and fat.”

And regardless of diet preferences, Meier explains that it’s important to consume  balanced meals in a healthy lifestyle.

“I like to say that variety is the spice of life,” Meier said. “So it’s important to get a lot of variety in your diet and trying healthier things. I think that it’s all about balance and widening your horizons to try and just in general eat a healthier diet meaning more fruits and vegetables, less sugar. Those kinds of things can prevent diseases later in our lives and you get better energy and feel better overall.”