Vegan Soldiers Force Change in IDF Menu

Following October protest, army says it will add foods such as lentil patties to soldiers’ diet.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Vegan dish: A glimpse at the future of Israeli army chow. Credit: Crossroads
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

As a result of an October protest by vegan soldiers who said the army menu didn’t suit their diet – which eschews not only meat and fish but dairy products as well – the Israel Defense Forces has announced that it will add to it new dishes based on soybeans and legumes, for example lentil patties.

The IDF weekly magazine Bamahane reported this week on the change in the menu of military mess halls, which will start in February. In the Technology and Logistics Branch an initial experiment was conducted this week with vegan foods, introducing a vegan cooked dish and a vegan schnitzel without animal protein. In the future they will add foods suitable for breakfast and supper at closed army bases.

In the near future the army will issue tenders for purchasing food items suitable for vegan soldiers. One of the combat soldiers who led the vegans’ protest told Haaretz Thursday that this was the aim of the struggle – to introduce vegan foods to the army mess hall. “We prefer food to money,” he said, adding, “I’ll be satisfied if there are nourishing dishes, not two lentil patties. If it doesn’t satisfy us we’ll take action again, but the change is exciting.”

Omer Yuval, a reservist who served in Operation Protective Edge and initiated the protest, said, “The decision is definitely encouraging, and we thank the IDF and appreciate the willingness to make such a significant logistical change. There is room for optimism, but at this stage I prefer to exercise restraint and to wait for results in the field.”

In October, Haaretz reported the protest of the vegan soldiers, who are demanding recognition from the army. Dozens of soldiers submitted a class action on this subject, and recently they received an answer to their letter from IDF ombudsman Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Brick. In their complaint the soldiers protested against the high allowances paid them, but Brick claimed that “the increased allowances are given to a very specific population, which due to the nature of their jobs and the needs of the system are unable to be fed by the army kitchen.”

The vegan soldiers, who complained that they unable to eat in the army mess halls at all, will from now on be able to eat in them, but only until receipt of the permit for transferring the food allowances. At the same time, the army is examining the possibility of allowing vegan soldiers who receive food allowances to enter the army mess halls “in order to complement their nutrition at meals with a variety of suitable food items served in the dining room and at other ‘spreads.’”

It was also decided to ease the conditions for recognizing vegan soldiers: Soldiers will be able to declare that they are vegan before an officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel, rather than before a lawyer, as was the case until now; the home visit to soldiers who declare that they refrain from animal-based foods will be cancelled, and instead the soldiers will be interviewed by phone by an army welfare officer; the soldiers will be able to receive non-leather shoes and a beret that suit their lifestyle, without any need for advance recognition by the army of the soldier’s “veganism,” but based on his declaration alone.