Eating meat always felt wrong to Meghan Little.
“I didn’t like the taste and I didn’t like the idea of eating dead animals,” she says.
A vegetarian since the age of seven, Little took it one step further almost four years ago when she became vegan.
“I went vegan because I learned just how similar the eggs and dairy industries are to the meat industry and how they are even more cruel,” she says.
When she graduated from Handsworth Secondary in June, Little left behind a leafy legacy.
Last fall, Little helped launch Meatless Monday at the school, with the help of the Vancouver Humane Society and Handsworth’s Environmental Club.
A typical Meatless Monday dish at Handsworth has a rice base with some sort of curry or stew on top. One of the most popular meatless dishes this year was the Thai Coconut Chickpea Curry.
Students responded positively after the menu change, says Little.
“The Meatless Monday option would regularly sell out,” she says. “I had many people come up to me to tell me how much they love Mondays because of the lunch option.”
Little’s efforts and awareness led to a commitment by local food service provider, Amaga Food, to expand on Meatless Monday by transitioning 20 per cent of the regular menu to plant-based at five North Vancouver high schools, Handsworth, Sutherland, Argyle, Windsor and Seycove, starting this fall.
Juice was the only vegan option in the Handsworth cafeteria before the Meatless Monday movement, according to Little.
“I felt that the vegan population at my school was growing and wasn’t being represented in the food options in our cafeteria,” she says. “I thought the students needed a healthier option. It was also a way for me to educate people and spread awareness because no one really understood why I was vegan.”
Little was recently presented with a Student Recognition Award for her healthy initiative at Handsworth. A representative from the Vancouver Humane Society was on hand when Little received the honour.
“She’s helped empower her peers when it comes to making informed food choices that protect animal welfare, the planet and public health,” says Vancouver Humane Society program co-ordinator Emily Pickett.
Little says it surprises her how much people don’t know about the food they’re eating.
“I’m pretty sure most people know about the atrocities that happen in the meat industry,” she says. “What surprises me most is how little people question the dairy and egg industries.”
Going vegan is not easy, Little has learned. If you’re not used to eating plant-based, it’s hard to eat enough calories and to feel satisfied, she says.
Little has some advice for the newly converted: include more grains, legumes, starches, and healthy fats to feel full.
“Also, there are some new vegan products that are meant to have the same effect as meat. The Beyond Burger is one example,” she says.
Little will continue to extol the virtues of veganism when she attends UBC in the fall where she will study geography, but for now she's reflecting on her high school legacy.
“I feel really happy to have started Meatless Monday at Handsworth,” says Little. “I’m hoping that I inspired younger students to make positive changes too and to follow their passions.”