GRAPHIC BY SANDEEP GINGIPALLI
The aroma of meat fills the cafeteria’s air as hungry students rush in to get their meals. While many students choose to buy sandwiches or nachos filled with beef and chicken for lunch, a growing number of students are skipping the meat and are heading for the veggies. Although a minority in comparison to the school’s population, there are rising numbers of vegetarians at the school.
Despite their growing numbers and the school’s efforts to understand vegetarians more as students and teachers form opinions about becoming vegetarian, there is no one label that can categorize all vegetarians as they all have their own unique experiences with vegetarianism.
Junior Caleb Pekowsky, who recently became vegetarian, has felt a lot of criticism from his peers due to his decision to become vegetarian. According to Pekowsky, ever since he announced his decision to turn vegetarian, people have begun to mock him.
“Basically every single person I told, responded with a lot of pushback,” Pekowsky said. “They felt as if I was acting better than them, but I really wasn’t. I just wanted to try out a new diet and lifestyle, but for some reason it was a problem for other people.”
On the other hand, first-year math teacher David Knott has had an experience completely different from that of Pekowsky.
“I think that I’ve been made fun of but only in a very good nature kind of way. Like maybe someone is giving me a hard time but not in a serious way. There’s been no real criticism or anything like that,” Knott said.
Even though Knott’s and Pekowsky’s experiences differ in regards to the criticism that they have faced, they both have found comfort in the food options that they have at the high school.
According to Knott, although he usually brings lunch from home, when he does choose to buy lunch in the school, he is satisfied with the options that vegetarians have.
“I have tried the veggie burger at the school restaurant and it’s really good,” Knott said.
This statement was echoed by Pekowsky, who buys lunch nearly every day. According to Pekowsky, some of the vegetarian options at the cafeteria are delicious like the pasta and the veggie bean burgers.
Despite the fact that the school tries its best to cater towards vegetarians, many members of the school still fail to understand the reasons for why people choose to be vegetarian. Like most things related to vegetarianism, there is no single answer that can provide the reasons for why people turn to a vegetarian diet, as each vegetarian has a unique reason for choosing to eat in the way that they do.
For junior David Katz, the reason for his vegetarian diet came due to moral issues with eating meat.
“When I was younger I thought it was disgusting for people to murder animals in a cruel manner and then eat them. Although my reasons for vegetarianism have changed slightly over the years because of the way I thought when I was younger, I’ve been a vegetarian since,” Katz said.
For others like Pekowsky, a vegetarian diet has not been a result of ethical concerns but rather a need for a challenge. According to Pekowsky, he started his vegetarian diet because he wanted a challenge in his life and he found that through practicing a vegetarian diet.
Although both Katz and Pekowsky admit that they sometimes crave meat and that they might break their vegetarianism in the future, for now, they both are focused on maintaining a vegetarian diet.
Even though Pekowsky admits that he might revert back to meat in the future, he still hopes that the school can create a more inclusive environment for vegetarians.
“I think that change needs to come from both sides,” Pekowsky said. “A lot of vegans and vegetarians are obnoxious about their diet choices and try to act superior while on the other side those who eat meat feel as if they’re being attacked and respond through hate. I think it’s important for us to respect everyone’s choice. It’s your body, and you can choose what you want to put in your body.”