It’s lunch time at The Scandinavian School in New Jersey, but instead of baloney sandwiches and bags of chips or cookies, the children are sitting down together for a communal meal that could include a falafel sandwich, a risotto made with mushrooms, spinach and fresh herbs, or an assortment of delectable dishes including a quinoa and brown pilaf and a chickpea stew. The theme that ties together all these meals that are giving us FOMO? Everything is homemade, vegan, and organic, with some of the herbs and produce coming from the school’s kid-tended garden. The Scandinavian School describes itself as Reggio Emilia-inspired, and kids here do have a central role in determining what they learn and explore. Along with the creative project-based activities that the teachers develop in conjunction with their students’ interests, the children spend time each day learning how to be part of a community, whether that means all sitting together at mealtime or helping to make organic almond milk to serve to the staff and students.
Cultivating this sense of community was an integral part in the school’s decision to go vegan: two vegan children enrolled four years ago and the school director decided that The Scandi School would adapt the school’s diet to make them feel included. Parents and other family members often help out with meal prep, showcasing their respective cultural backgrounds with special foods or simply lending a hand, but the school has its own chef as well. Naturally, the chef also has an active part in the children’s learning, helping them make the bread that is served at lunch (and which often accompanies the array of soup options), encouraging them to try new tastes and expand their palate, and simply having them explore the comfy, spacious kitchen.
Not all of the children are vegan at home, but that’s not the point of the vegan lunches, and it’s still amazing that they are getting healthy and delicious lunches that provide plant-based sustenance and energy throughout their day. The Scandi School is for children ages 1-6 (and includes exposure to Scandinavian language as part of its educational approach), but perhaps a local elementary school will continue the vegan lunch trend. If not, kids can use their Reggio-learned negotiating skills to petition a family move to Los Angeles where the MUSE School LA serves 100% plant-based lunches and snacks for its staff and students. If you aren’t in the market for either of these schools, you can get your virtual fix and perhaps some mealtime inspiration from the school’s Instagram page.
All images via The Scandinavian School