Meat-Free School Lunches Draw Ire of State Official

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples is raising objections to a school district pilot program that encourages kids to eat meatless lunches once a week.

The pilot program at the Drippings Springs School District offers meat-free lunch options every Monday to students in its three elementary schools. Students can still eat meaty meals on Mondays, but must bring their lunches from home.

Among the food items offered to students this Monday were a black-bean burrito, vegetarian chili with cornbread, baby carrots and sliced peaches. On past Mondays, students could choose cheese sandwiches, cheese ravioli, spinach salad and vegetarian soups.

John Crowley, who heads childhood nutrition services for the Hays County district, said the program is intended to encourage healthy and environmentally conscientious eating. Some benefits of growing vegetables over raising livestock include fewer greenhouse gases.

He said there is no plan to expand the veggie menu to other weekdays.

"Are we having a war on meat in Dripping Springs? Definitely not," Crowley said. "We're trying to think outside the box, and we serve a lot of Texas beef on our menus. We've had requests for more vegetarian options, and I thought, `Why don't I give it a try and see how it's received by kids?"'

Staples said in an opinion piece published in the Austin American-Statesman Statesman that the meat-free lunches are a part of a movement by activists who seek to mandate their lifestyles for others.

"While we have plenty of room in the Lone Star State for vegetarians, we have no room for activists who seek to mandate their lifestyles on others," he wrote.

The Houston school district also has meat-free Mondays at some of its schools.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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