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The student news site of Woodbridge High School

Golden Arrow

The student news site of Woodbridge High School

Golden Arrow

Woodbridge High Cafeteria Expands Its Vegetarian Options for Students

Woodbridge High cafeteria staff and the Irvine Unified School District work together to accommodate students to an access to vegetarian meals and aims to bring more vegetarian options to the school menu
Healthy+and+tasty+vegetarian+options+are+available+to+students+in+the+cafeteria.+
Ashlynn Do
Healthy and tasty vegetarian options are available to students in the cafeteria.

With numerous food requests from Woodbridge High students, vegetarian foods are becoming more accessible for students creating healthier options in the school cafeteria.

Senior Shyam Rao enjoys eating some of the vegetarian dishes in the cafeteria such as the Pesto Pasta, Impossible Burger and grilled cheese with fries. He expresses his appreciation for these changes.

“I can have a health[ier] diet, and I can tell [more] people about vegetarianism because [our school has] the access [and] the options,” Rao said.

The IUSD department usually has vegetarian based foods on their menus but aims to accommodate food options for a wide range of diets.

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“There is such a growing focus on plant based meals and our department wants to be able to offer these options to students,” IUSD nutritionist supervisor Megan Norton said.

Within Woodbridge High, nutrition services staff are working to broaden healthier meals in the cafeteria by contacting multiple vendors and conferences. Each year, the cafeteria staff has two national school nutrition conferences, which is a large convention filled with different vendors.

This process usually starts with the cafeteria staff nutritionist bringing out food choices for cafeteria staff to consider and vendors keeping in contact with cafeteria staff for food options. Specifically, expanding the vegetarian menu requires reaching out to food companies, experimenting with different food recipes and having an adequate food supply.

Woodbridge High Nutrition Services’ director, Alithea Cairo, notes one of these struggles.

“There are some impossible meat crumbles that I kind of want to get a hold of to put in our pasta sauces, but there [are] none in stock…so that’s another issue [that] we have to deal with sometimes,” Cairo said.

Norton also expands on the difficulty of having enough food quantity.

“Since Covid, we have had many food items shorted from our menus. Our district serves about 18,000 lunch meals a day [while] Woodbridge serves over 1,000 lunch meals a day. With lunch numbers this high, it is sometimes hard to [have] food in these quantities from our vendors,” Norton said.

In order to solve this problem, Cairo hopes to have food and produce from local vendors. For example, she recently contacted another tofu company in Fullerton and tried some tofu dishes at the convention, including crispy tofu and Caesar wrap with tofu inside.

Since then, Cairo has created some vegetarian lunch items with tofu, including the tofu nuggets, the stir fry and the Banh-Mi.

“I put the tofu in [the stir fry] instead of the meat for the protein, and I saw a version of a Banh-Mi but as a wrap and then [put] tofu instead of the chicken,” Cairo said.

Cafeteria staff also get grants from local farms, which send them different fruits and veggies to use in multiple cafeteria dishes such as salads and charcuterie platters.

Cairo also explains the importance of student feedback on the menu, as it constantly changes depending on student requests. The cafeteria staff are eager to make these changes happen.

“I really like hearing from [students] requesting things and me trying to fill that need and trying to accommodate what you guys want,” Cairo said.

Cairo also researches recent food trends and creates food dishes based on what students enjoy.

“I research trending things [happening recently] and basically [our job is to] see what is trending. [A] lot of [students] like going to Chipotle, so we [make pork carnitas bowls and taco salads],” Cairo said.

With cafeteria staff eager for more feedback, they hope to bring in more food items, flavors and options while also customizing the menu based on what students typically like.

“Just keep the feedback coming [because] I love hearing [from students],” Cairo said.

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About the Contributors
Melody Liao, News Editor
Hey everyone! My name is Melody Liao, and I am thrilled to be your News Editor this year. As my first and final year in Golden Arrow, I aim to unite many teachers and students by allowing everyone to have a voice and feature Woodbridge's significant events. I hope my writing will bring you the knowledge on what Woodbridge offers. As a senior at Woodbridge High School, I am a board member of various clubs and a chamber singer in the Woodbridge choir. In my free time, I spend hours reading romance and fantasy books. If you have any questions related to Golden Arrow or would like to chat with me personally, do not hesitate to reach out to me on instagram, @mwlleo! This year will be our year, Warriors! :)
Ashlynn Do, Writer/Photographer
Hi Warriors! My name is Ashlynn Do and I'll be joining the Golden Arrow this year as a staff writer. I'm looking forward to representing different voices on campus and helping people and groups share their stories. I can't wait to work with the rest of the Golden Arrow staff to bring you lots of great stories this year!