A new California bill aims to fight climate change and improve students’ health by incentivizing schools to serve more plant-based meals.
AB 479, which was introduced yesterday by California Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys), will provide extra funding to schools that add or increase the number of vegan entrées and plant-based milks on their menus. The Physicians Committee is a co-sponsor of the bill, along with Animal Hope in Legislation, Friends of the Earth, and Social Compassion in Legislation.
The bill will not only provide funding for plant-based meals, but it will also offer support for staff training, student engagement, recipe development, and other technical assistance needed to boost participation rates.
It’s great news for students’ health. Plant-based meals are rich in heart-healthy fiber and low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Eating a diet rich in plant-based foods can lower children’s long-term risk for health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
It’s also good news for the environment: Vegan meals save water, reduce land use, and even lower greenhouse gas emissions. One report from Friends of the Earth found that if every public school in the state swapped beef burgers for veggie burgers just once a month, it would save 300 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year.
Many school districts across California have already successfully introduced plant-based options to their students. When Oakland Unified School District added more plant-based meals—like veggie chow mein and garden burgers—to its menus, the district saved $40,000 and 42 million gallons of water over the course of two years.
At Los Angeles Unified School District, a pilot program introducing vegan meals, including falafel flatbread and three-bean vegan chili, was so successful that LAUSD’s food services division said they would recommend expanding the program to every school in the district.
New Bill Will Bring Plant-Based Meals to Public Schools!