So, it’s been 3 days since Wednesday; my big day of outreach. A few days later, I think I am in the right headspace to talk about it. I was very nervous beforehand and didn’t sleep well. I was incredibly anxious about it. First of all, I really don’t like being in the spotlight and the idea of my efforts being so visible made me feel uncomfortable. Not really anything to do with veganism, rather, just my own hang ups. I felt like veganism and I would be judged if it didn’t go perfectly. I also wanted people to like the food. for some of the 400 people who ate lunch that day, this was their first ever vegan meal. I wanted it to go perfectly, but as I wasn’t cooking, I didn’t have complete control despite my best efforts to foresee any problems by testing the recipes ahead of time. I wanted people to think of vegan food as satisfying and that vegetables can stand by themselves without any need for meat or animal products. As I do have tendencies to get anxious in these situations, this was really hard for me to deal with on the day as observed by my running around asking and telling a lot of people that I met that I didn’t think the food was that good.
First of all, we had snack at 9:30. This seemed to go OK. The fresh young coconuts were a huge hit, so much so that they ran out within a few minutes. I begged the catering company to try and get some more for lunchtime. They agreed. They ended up selling 60 coconuts surprising themselves that day. I felt a lot of joy at this. Young coconut water is a much better choice than iced tea nutritionally, but also waste generated from the coconut was only a straw compared with iced tea being a tetrapack carton and plastic straw. With a bit more effort, you could get rid of the straw too! Most of the other snacks were just the regular ones (not vegan) but word did get around about the choc cookies which rumour had it were really good.
Between snack and lunch, I blu-taced posters of the menu around, and stuck photocopies of the environmental impacts of livestock production from Vegan Outreach on the lunch tables of our various cafes around school.
Then we had school assembly. The Earth Day lunch was mentioned again and I was thanked for my efforts. I was pointed out and everyone turned around to look at me. Not my favourite thing. Then Seb came over for lunch in his ‘Real Men are Kind to Animals’ shirt. (I told him to wear it. He felt stupid. I didn’t care.).
I left the assembly and went to check on the food as it was being brought out. Obviously this was a stressful moment for the catering staff. Getting ready for any food service is very difficult, especially when EVERYTHING is new and you are not quite sure how to serve this food. Luckily, the few people who came before the rush helped us iron out some of the things that came up. To say I was nervous as people came swarming in to the dining room is an understatement. The Tortilla Soup was all wrong. Why were there things that looked like green peas in there instead of beans? Why were the veggie burgers green and a funny texture (I later found out that there must have been an error either in the translation or in the understanding of the recipe). Next time, I will use pictures to illustrate what some unusual ingredients are so there is no confusion.
Some real winners were: The carrot and ginger soup, choc chip cookies, veggie burgers (even though I thought they were weird) and the chili. The teachers seemed to love the big salad bar and loved the dressings. There was a good buzz around the place. I spoke to the catering staff at the end of the day. they said everything was OK. I plan to meet with them again and ask them some very specific questions. I want some solid evidence because I want to work towards having more of these healthy options in our dining hall. I also want to start Meatless Mondays. Baby steps though.
By the end of the day I just wanted to go home and hide. I’ve been so visible in recent weeks with my class talks, veg challenge and Earth Day, I have been wondering if people think there’s anything more to who I am than being vegan! I also really wasn’t sure if it had been a success. Everyone said it was, but I thought everyone was just trying to be nice. A few days later though and on reflection, I think the day went pretty well. I really understand how Jamie Oliver felt when he did his School Dinners and Food Revolution show. Considering the challenges, I think it *was* a success and would only get better and better the more we work on it. I am now feeling rather impatient. I don’t want to lose the momentum. I want people who liked the food to speak up and say that they want changes. I want to work with the kitchen staff to train them on how they can create more healthy foods that kids and teachers will enjoy. Change never happens quick enough for me. I must be patient, but I feel that we are at critical point now. Healthy eating is being discussed more and more at our school and for that I am grateful but I don’t want it to fall by the wayside which is so easy to happen when we are such a busy school.I really feel that this is a way that I can make a difference here. There’s the openness and willingness to try new things which is at my school in abundance. That really is half the battle. I want the chance to improve the health of all our community by giving people a choice to choose food that do not have ingredients that cause disease like cancer and heart disease and high in nutrients that protect us from disease and nourish our bodies so they can fulfill their potential.
Here are some written comments I have received about the food served on our Earth Day.
Hi Brighde –
I just wanted to give you some feedback from today’s lunch. Here is a few things that I overheard.
Well – even before I get to the other people – from me – What a great effort. Love your zest and passion and your unstoppable enthusiasm. The food was DELICIOUS. I have not EVER had such a delicious meal at SWA and I would go so far as to say in my living memory nor have I had such a delicious meal as a school lunch anywhere in the world.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could have “Meat Free Mondays?”
Teacher – “This is so delicious.” X 120
Teacher: “Did you enjoy today?” Girls “Yes. The lunch was the best.”
Student – “Good. Because the burger they had like vegetable not ham.”
Student- “I ate a stick with – I don’t know what it is called. Yummy.”
Student – “I ate broccoli and I don’t know what it’s called. I liked it because the cookie was nice.
Student – “These cookies are so so so delicious!”
I am sure that many children and teachers had a positive experience today. I am still full – the after school snack of a fresh coconut may have helped this. LOVE the fresh coconuts.
Yesterday’s lunch was fantastic – your gentle determination to do what you’re passionate about and make a difference makes you such a great role model for kids (and staff).
People really enjoyed the food – the veggie burgers were a big hit (hope we can get them on a regular basis).
Would love to push for a regular meatless-mondays – let me know if you need any help.
Thank you so much Brighde, I had the best lunch at school EVER! If only they had nice salads and soups everyday! All of that stuff today was amazing!
Did you eat at SWA on that day? Please leave any feedback in the comments section. I want to gather as much evidence, positive and negative as I can!