There are plenty of times when rushing through the morning chaos with 4 kids that I wish there were healthy plant-based meal options available in the public schools. Goodness knows most American kids could use more vegetables in their diets, and less junk. But seeing as the obesity epidemic in this country is essentially being subsidized by the government, I choose the easy way out and pack my kids' food.
However, there are many ways to get involved in trying to bring healthier food to school and the community at large. For us, belonging to our CSA, Stearns Farm, is our biggest contribution--over 10K in organic produce is donated annually to food pantries and soup kitchens in our town. And while I was at the farm volunteering a few weeks ago, I met two women from the metrowest Jewish Family Services who came by to harvest some excess root vegetables--they were to be added to grocery bags given to families in need. I suggested adding a few recipes, since the largely Brazilian population in the southern half of our town wouldn't necessarily be familiar with celeriac and parsnips. It is my feeling that many folks WANT to include healthier foods in their family's diet, but don't know what to do with the raw ingredients, or don't know how to make them appealing to kids (or adults with child-like palates ;-) ).
While I am an abolitionist vegan at heart, I don't think that methodology is really the best way to change the general public's eating habits and outlook on food ethics. I think modeling good eating is #1, but since the majority of kids are surrounded most of the day by their peers, offering exclusively healthy meal options in schools is key. There are some good programs attempting to do this, such as the Great American Salad Bar Project, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, or the Farm Aid school programs. Even something as simple as redesigning lunch lines in cafeterias can have an impact on the food choices that kids make for themselves.
While these programs are not always focusing on plant-based diets, parents, school staff and community members can get involved to influence the foods and recipes that will be purchased.
Meanwhile, I continue to pack vegan lunches, which also have less impact on the environment...
Maia's preschool lunch: rice flower with nori bunny; monterey jack soy cheese squares; smoked Tofurky flower; honeydew melon chunks; a pickle; cucumber slices.