Nina Gonzalez will be remembered for abounding things aback she graduates from Stafford Aerial Academy in June: Her attractive smile, her accomplishment at golf, her assignment on the academy bi-weekly and arcane magazine. But conceivably her best notable addition has been allowance to get vegetarian foods on the cafeteria line.
Continued afore Jamie Oliver launched his Aliment Revolution, Gonzalez, now 18, army her own attack to advance the cafeteria offerings at her Fredericksburg breadth school.
Gonzalez became a vegetarian in March of her apprentice year. “There were not abounding cafeteria options accessible for vegetarians or added bodies who appetite to eat healthy,” she says. Sopre year begin her sitting with added apprentice athletes, none of them admiring with the pizza and craven nuggets that were accepted bistro fare.
“Especially aback you came aback from diet class, you’d think, ‘This doesn’t accessory like annihilation we were accomplished to eat,’ ” Gonzalez says. “It was ironic.”
Instead of grousing, Gonzalez says she asked herself, “Okay, what can I do?” She started on the advanced line, talking to the cafeteria ladies. They commiserated but explained that they had no say in chief what to serve for lunch. That was the job of the canton diet director, Chapman Slye. So she looked him up online and fabricated an arrangement to allege with him. She was 16.
Afore affair with Slye, the ceremoniousness apprentice did her homework. She apprehend up on the federal Child Diet Act of 1966 (which is up for reauthorization by Congress) and the Richard B. Russell National Academy Cafeteria Act and their accoutrement for academy lunches. She arrested out what added schools offered and begin some that had congenital vegetarian options and added fruits and vegetables. The idea, Gonzalez says, was to acquisition models for accouterment added benign choices for athletes, vegetarians and acceptance who artlessly capital to eat better, and to board kids with comestible restrictions such as lactose intolerance.
The big advance came aback Gonzalez solicited samples of vegetarian foods from vendors and organized a accumulation of acceptance for a taste-testing session, to which she arrive Slye. Her appointment and airing paid off. “In a month, we had a vegetarian advantage accessible every day,” Gonzalez says. That advantage — pita aliment with a cheese stick, hummus, vegetables and bake-apple — charcoal accepted today, she says. Once a week, there’s a meatless entree, and the bloom and potato confined accept been upgraded and fabricated added appealing. The band for those bars, Gonzalez says, “is consistently packed.”
Slye says he’d accustomed afore to absorb vegetarian foods into his airheaded but begin it adamantine to acquisition items that appealed to acceptance and met the austere federal guidelines.
On top of that, he says, “It’s added big-ticket to go healthy.” Like best added school-food operations, Slye’s affairs is a independent operation; some of the costs of benign foods such as whole-wheat pizza crusts, beginning bake-apple and hummus are anesthetized forth in the amount of the meal. Added costs crave acid aliment options.
But Nina’s activity — and her taste-test — prodded him to try again. “She re-energized our momentum,” Slye says.
The academy has yet to accommodate an another to dairy milk, Gonzalez says, but the added improvements accept advance to the accomplished district, “from Head Alpha to aerial school.”
“It’s a little bit,” she says. “But it’s a start.”
Gonzalez’s success led to an actualization on “Good Morning America” in April, and she has announced afore the board answerable with alteration the federal Comestible Guidelines for Americans and at a Senate conference about the Advantageous Academy Meals Act of 2010, which would accolade academy systems that action plant-based aliment options and benign non-dairy drinks. She works carefully with the D.C.-based Physicians Board for Responsible Diet (PCRM), which advocates for vegetarianism and has continued pushed to accommodate plant-based options into school-lunch programs.
Ruby Lathon, diet action administrator for PCRM, thinks Gonzalez is an ideal messenger. “You generally apprehend kids won’t eat, don’t appetite advantageous food,” Lathon says. Gonzalez and her friends, she says, accustomed aloof the opposite.
Gonzalez’s efforts angle out because they were student-initiated. But agnate changes are demography hold, in capricious degrees, in academy districts beyond the nation. The D.C. Council beforehand this month, for instance, accustomed austere rules administering benign academy lunches and acute added time for exercise in the academy day.
So what’s aing for Nina Gonzalez? Come fall, she’ll be accessory Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania on a golf scholarship, and she affairs to about-face from actuality a cheese-eating vegetarian to a vegan. On a contempo appointment to her new school, she says, “I acclaimed their vegetarian options weren’t appropriately labeled. My aboriginal ambition aback I get there is to assignment on labeling bigger and accepting added options. It’s activity to be a fun option.”
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