WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the Coalition for Healthy School Food have teamed up on the new publication School Food Service in the Age of COVID-19…and Beyond: Why WHAT You Serve Matters Now More Than Ever. The booklet, which was created to address the importance of serving healthy school meals during the COVID-19 pandemic, offers expert guidance, practical tips, and delicious quantity plant-based recipes.
“Why WHAT You Serve Matters Now More Than Ever gives schools the ABC’s of successfully providing students and staff plant-based meals that promote overall wellness and help support their immunity,” says Maggie Neola, RD, LD, a dietitian with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “As schools prepare to reopen during the ongoing pandemic, it’s more important than ever that their menus put a greater emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which they already serve, and introduce or increase legumes such as beans and lentils, as well as other plant-based meat alternates.”
New research shows that a plant-based diet may help prevent severe COVID-19. The smartphone-based COVID Symptom Study, including 592,571 participants over age 18, found that dietary patterns that were highest in fruits, vegetables, and plant-based foods in general were associated with a 41% lower risk of severe COVID-19 and a 9% reduction of COVID-19 infection of any severity, compared to diets lowest in these foods.
Children are experiencing the effects of unhealthy eating that used to be reserved for adults—overweight/obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes—but they can benefit greatly from reducing meat and dairy consumption and increasing the amount of plant-based foods they eat, not just during the pandemic but for years to come.
“Plant-based school meals are healthy for all students, make a big difference for the environment, and are cost neutral or may even cost less than food containing meat or dairy,” says Amie Hamlin, executive director of Coalition for Healthy School Food. “The protein category of the meal, or ‘Meat/Meat Alternate Component’ in school food language, is the category that offers the greatest opportunity to make school meals healthier.”
Plant-based meat/meat alternate options include beans, lentils, split peas, tempeh, and tofu. Plus, there are premade options schools can order such as falafel, plant-based meats, hummus, and more.
The booklet offers schools best practices for successfully introducing new menu items and includes healthy plant-based recipes such as Power Hummus, Main Dish Salad, Pasta Fagioli, North African Red Lentils, Sweet and Sour Power Bowl, and Tuscan Tomato Pie. Step-by-step photos for how to prepare both beans and tofu are also included.
The Coalition for Healthy School Food has toolkits with recipes inspired by foods from around the world, as well as marketing and educational materials including flyers, serving line signs, recipe-specific announcements, and for the classroom, slideshows about the recipes the cultures are from. These resources are available at HealthySchoolFood.org/Recipes under “Toolkits for Schools.”
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine offers menu consultation services by registered dietitians, tailored marketing materials upon request, various nutrition education opportunities, and bulk recipes. Learn more about these services at HealthySchoolLunches.org.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.