Los Angeles Unified School District Launches Vegan Pilot Program

The Physicians Committee
NEWS RELEASE May 10, 2017
Los Angeles Unified School District Launches Vegan Pilot Program
As National School Lunch Standards Relax, Los Angeles Unified School District Steps Forward to Introduce Students to Healthful Plant-Based Vegan Entrées

Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C., and Lila Copeland, a student at LAUSD, champion healthful plant-based menu options.

Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C., and Lila Copeland, a student at LAUSD, champion healthful plant-based menu options.

WASHINGTON—The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation’s second-largest public school district, approved a pilot program to test-drive daily plant-based vegan entrées in a handful of district schools during the 2017-18 school year. The LAUSD board members approved the resolution, drafted by Lila Copeland, a freshman and youth director of the nonprofit Earth Peace, who has been working on the proposal for two years.

Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C., and Jay Gordon, M.D., F.A.P.P., spoke with educators on behalf of the health benefits of plant-based eating patterns at the LAUSD board meeting at 5 p.m. P.T. on May 9, 2017, and made recommendations to the district for modeling healthful eating templates for its 650,000 K-12 students.

 “Children who grow up with exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables naturally prefer those foods,” says Dr. Barnard. “A bean burrito and garden salad or a tofu veggie wrap with fresh mango slices won’t be new at age 25 if it’s served every day, today, in school lunch lines.”

Dr. Barnard and Dr. Gordon appeared at the LAUSD board meeting, along with other experts and many students, on behalf of a request from Copeland, who wrote the scientifically-backed resolution with help from dietitians at the nonprofit Physicians Committee. Copeland has also been working with the district and their food distributor this past year to identify delicious and nutritious plant-based options for students.

The next steps for a successful pilot program include selecting entrées, performing taste tests, and promoting the items during the 2017-18 school year. Copeland has already worked with student ambassadors to champion plant-based entrées. After introducing students at LAUSD to nutrient-packed, plant-based options, Copeland will take the proposal for a daily vegan entrée to the California Department of Education. Her goal is to provide every student in California with the option to select plant-based entrées and nondairy beverages by the time she graduates high school in 2020.

“To fight the future epidemic of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, we have to start educating today’s students about the impact their food choices have on their blood sugar, their blood pressure, and their cholesterol,” mentions Dr. Barnard. “Learning doesn’t stop in the classroom. Education takes place in the kitchen, in the lunch line, in school gardens, and with any platform that helps students connect the dots between diet and health.”

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics finds a plant-based vegan diet, rich in leafy greens, beans, and almost all fruits and vegetables, reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 62 percent. A whole-food, plant-based diet also reduces the risk of a heart attack by one-third, overall cancer risk by 18 percent, prostate cancer by 35 percent, and can cut one’s carbon footprint in half.

For an interview with Dr. Barnard or to request a copy of the resolution, please contact  Jeanne Stuart McVey, Media Relations Manager, 202-527-7316, 202-686-2210, ext. 316.

For an interview with Lila Copeland and to learn more about the plant-based pilot program, please contact Earth Peace at 310-699-2529 or earthpeacefound@gmail.com. Dr. Barnard is the president and founder of the nonprofit Physicians Committee, an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine, and the founder of Barnard Medical Center, a nonprofit primary care medical center in Washington, D.C. The Physicians Committee provided the LAUSD with a Golden Carrot Award in 2011 for its healthful fare and sued the district this past year for providing students with processed meats, which are classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

Visit Dr. Barnard’s blog to view his oral testimony and photos from the hearing.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research and medical training.

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