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Pittsburg High School faces criticism over vegan options

Wendy Hernandez
Some students at Pittsburg High School are not fond of the school’s vegan options, including the vegan hamburger. “It doesn’t have that much flavor in it. And when you take a bite, it’s like, the inside is green,” said 11th grade student Hassan Hans.

At Pittsburg High School, there’s a variety of meal options available for students. They range from Italian, Mexican, Chinese, as well as plant-based selections to make sure those who are vegan have choices, too. 

However, some students have raised concerns about the quality of certain vegan options and the long wait times in line. Some student vegetarians say there is a decent variety of options provided by the school, including sandwiches, vegan hamburgers and chow mein, which have been available since 2013. However, there have been mixed reviews about the quality of these offerings.

“I wouldn’t say that taste is to my liking,” said Parneet Hans, an 11th grader at PHS. “It’s um … it doesn’t taste like anything, and I feel like that does not fulfill my hunger at lunch.”

One student who is familiar with the school lunch program, said the most expensive and considered to be the healthiest dish – the vegan hamburger – lacks flavor and sometimes has an off-putting color inside.

“It doesn’t have that much flavor in it. And when you take a bite, it’s like, the inside is green,” 11th grade student Hassan Hans said. “So, when you eat it in front of people, they’re like, ‘oh, what the hell, why is it green?’ So, it’s kind of awkward eating it around people.”

Another student expressed dissatisfaction, and added the burger even led to a negative physical reaction. Similarly, vegan chicken nuggets received criticism for their taste and appearance, with students feeling uncomfortable eating them in front of others, also due to their greenish hue. 

Reportedly, it is not just the quality of the food that is causing some teens concern. 

“As a vegetarian, if my food is being handled by the same utensils and gloves used to handle the food with meat, I believe it would have contaminated my food,” said one 12th grade PHS student who did not want to give his name. “I would rather prefer it if there was a different set of utensils.”

“Vegans and vegetarians choose not to eat meat. However, there are some differences,” wrote Jamie Eske in Medical News Today. “Veganism is stricter than vegetarianism and also prohibits dairy, eggs, honey and any other items that derive from animal products, such as leather and silk.”

Experts say that plant-based school meals can help address rising rates of chronic disease in youth. According to The Physicians Committee on Responsible Medicine, “projections from the CDC show that 1 in 3 children will develop type 2 diabetes [sic] during their lifetime. More and more children are gaining excess weight, paving the way for health problems later in life. In fact, American children often have fatty streaks in their arteries before they finish high school. Plant-based meals promote health, because they are free of cholesterol, low in saturated fat and full of fiber.”

Despite these criticisms, some vegetarian options, like yogurt and nachos, were well-received among students. However, the popularity of these items posed another challenge, as both vegetarian and non-vegetarian students often want to eat those items, too, resulting in limited availability.

 *Additional resources:

Vegan vs. vegetarian: Differences, benefits, and which is healthier (

Wendy Hernandez is an 11th grader at Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg.

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