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A $308 billion budget that includes incentivising plant-based and vegan meals at schools has been approved in the State of California. From it, $100 million will be used to support schools in procuring plant-based foods, sustainably produced foods, California-grown foods, and foods to accommodate the dietary needs of students. Upgrading school kitchen infrastructure and training food service workers will receive $600 million from the state budget. A new programme (AB 588), aimed to incentivise California schools to expand plant-based options, is behind this new budget. 

Assembly member Adrin Nazarian said in a statement, “I am very excited to see plant-based school meals included in this year’s budget. Having this optional program for schools, in addition to their existing meat and dairy menus, will allow for an inclusive selection for our students…Many school districts across our state have a sizable student population that requires or wants plant-based or restricted diet options and cannot afford the sometimes-higher prices. This year’s budget is a sizable step towards empowering schools to respond to their students’ needs.”

Judie Mancuso, founder and president of Social Compassion in Legislation, a co-sponsor of AB 558, said in a statement, “A huge thank you to Assembly member Adrin Nazarian for his persistence in championing the budget proposal to include funding for plant-based school meals and milks. This has been [a] four-year effort by the Assembly member, our cosponsoring organizations, and the thousands of supporters throughout California who made their voices heard… We are grateful to see both the legislature and the Governor recognize the cultural shift towards plant-based choices by supporting our children to eat healthier, more climate-friendly, and humane diets.”

Neal Barnard, M.D., President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, also a co-sponsor of AB 558, said, “Bringing plant-based meals to schools will help students establish healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime… Not only do these foods help students stay focused and energized in the classroom today, but they also reduce long-term risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases.” Perhaps one day we will see a fully vegan school in California, as we can already see in the UK.