School lunches have been a contentious issue in the UK and the US for some time. Now MUSE School in Calabasa, California in the US, has taken a firm stand. It wants its children to eat healthy, and to understand where their food comes from and the impact of what they eat on the planet.
MUSE has recently gone plant-based. The response from parents was hostile: a whopping 40% of students were initially immediately withdrawn by concerned parents – though numbers subsequently recovered.
MUSE also faced wider public criticism from those who said it was only concerned with its privileged student cohort, in an area where poorer students endured inadequate diets in the public school system.
It’s been a bumpy ride, though the school has held the line. Says founder Suzy Amis Cameron (wife of famous film director, James Cameron): “The move to a vegan diet was prompted not by ethical or animal rights concerns (hence its preference for the term ‘plant-based’ rather than vegan and no rules banning leather shoes), but by a belief that the school could not live up to its founding principle of environmental sustainability and maintain an animal diet.
“We teach our students how much more land and water are needed to produce a pound of beef versus grain, and we couldn’t truly call ourselves sustainable without eating this way.”
Reactions to the programme have been diverse – from nutritionists claiming that brain development was at stake, to lobbies from the meat and dairy industries. Parents felt that
cutting out meat was not part of the school’s mandate. Says a MUSE spokesperson, “Their position was ‘my kid, my choice’.”
The programme has been developed in conjunction with the students and no one seems to be complaining about the burritos, vegetarian chilli and lemon garlic pasta. The school’s next steps include inviting parents to take part in or sign up the whole family to the programme, with the possibility of eventually extending to the local community and beyond.
Category: Autumn 2016