Friends of the Earth (FOE) has produced a new report that found that 68% of Californian school districts provide plant-based meals daily or weekly, which is a 54% increase since 2019.
The report, titled, “Plant-Based Trends in California’s School Lunches. A Progress Report on Climate-Friendly School Food” was published in August 2023, and researchers looked at the 25 largest school districts in the state between 2019 and 2022 and the 121 million lunches they serve every year to 1.83 million students.
Nora Stewart, California Climate-Friendly School Food Program Manager at FOE, told VegNews. “Across California, school nutrition service teams want to provide more plant-based options to meet the growing demand of students. There are also tremendous benefits to plant-based school meals, including increased student inclusion, student health, and climate.”
In the Santa Ana Unified School District in the greater Los Angeles area, new plant-based dishes have been introduced to cater to the diverse cultural, religious, ethical, and health needs of its students. Josh Goddard, the Director of Nutrition Services at Santa Ana Unified, said in a statement, “Students who follow a plant-based diet have expressed feelings of inclusion and support, while students who follow a flexitarian diet have shared a growing appreciation for being introduced to more plant-centric options.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom approved a $308 billion state budget in 2022 that included a substantial allocation for expanding plant-based meal options in schools, with $100 million for the procurement of plant-based and sustainably produced foods, and $600 million for upgrading school kitchen infrastructure and for training foodservice workers.
The Friends of the Earth’s Climate-Friendly School Food Program helps school districts make the shift toward healthy plant-forward and organic meals, by providing plant-based and organic procurement and technical assistance and marketing materials, supporting student and community engagement strategies, and linking school districts with the resources they need to be successful.