The beginning of the school year is just around the corner, and excitement and inspiration is abound. While schools are often commended for their scholastic achievements and sports records, we want to take a moment to highlight a couple amazing schools for their healthy plant-based meal programs.
Los Angeles Unified School District
In 2016, eighth grader Lila Copeland noticed her school cafeteria meals seemed unhealthy. She knew change was needed for her generation, so she worked on a scientifically-backed proposal, advocating for a plant-based diet option. It took two years, but she won the opportunity for the school district to pilot a program providing a vegan option at every meal. Over 15 per cent of the students chose a vegan meal on average. And on certain days of the week, over 50 per cent of the students chose the vegan option.
“[The program] got me thinking about my diet, and so I’ve tried more of the vegan options,” said 16-year-old Carolina Sagrero. She is neither a vegan or vegetarian. “There’s a stereotype that it has less flavor, but it’s not true. Everyone loves the vegan chilli!”
Other options include a bean burrito and garden salad, as well as a tofu veggie wrap with fresh mango slices.
For this fall of 2018, over 35 schools have been added to the pilot program. Lily is working towards full district participation by 2020 and future California-wide involvement.
Bergen Elementary School – Brooklyn, N.Y.
Bergen Elementary is New York’s third public school to become solely vegetarian. The school follows behind Active Learning Elementary School and The Peck Slip School. But principal Arlene Ramos, said the move was student driven.
“My students have expressed an interest in healthier eating, and the school gave them the option to choose this menu,” Ramos said in a statement. “I am very proud of their decision.”
The change is backed by an initiative with the Coalition for Healthy School Food, which helps NYC public schools offer at least one vegetarian option to students. The coalition’s executive director, Amie Hamlin, said of 1,800 schools, 1,200 are serving at least one vegan entrée, daily. New York city schools are also celebrating “NY Thursdays,” which feature locally grown or produced foods. Some of Bergen Elementary School’s food options include Sloppy Joes made from lentils, and crunchy teriyaki tofu.
Santa Barbara Unified School District
When the Santa Barbara Unified School District offered vegan meals for Earth Day in 2017, they realized how popular veganism can be. The district had collaborated with plant-based meat company Hungry Planet, for the event, where they served vegan meatball subs, chicken burritos, and double cheeseburgers. All options sold out, over the two days they were offered. With such success, the district’s food director Nancy Weiss switched up the cafeteria options, making half of them vegan.
The collaboration with Hungry Planet commenced once again in January 2018 and the meals have been so popular, they often run out of vegan options, said Weiss. Some plant-based options include chicken enchiladas, beef tostadas, and hamburgers. They are served to kids from kindergarten to grade 12. With 11 kitchens providing food for 28 schools, it equates to about two million meals each year – significantly reducing the consumption of meat!
Offering student bodies a chance to lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity is something we can get on board with!