According to the Santa Barbara Independent, 50 percent of the cafeteria meals served in the Santa Barbara Unified School District are vegan.
Last year on Earth Day, the district partnered with family-owned plant-based meat company Hungry Planet to serve vegan meatball subs, chicken chile verde burritos, and double cheeseburgers from the company’s food truck. All options sold out on both days.
The successful event prompted S.B. Unified School District food director, Nancy Weiss, to offer vegan meals for students within the district on a call-ahead basis. Soon, she decided that vegan options from Hungry Planet should become permanent menu fixtures.
“…I realized I really wanted everyone to be able to experience it,” Weiss said. “I just decided we would come up with a bunch of kid-friendly menu ideas and roll it out quietly.”
Schools within the district began officially offering vegan options in cafeterias this past January and according to Weiss, the meals continue to be a hit with students: “A lot of days they are running out of the Hungry Planet option.” This month’s vegan options include soyrizo quesadillas, crispy chicken burgers, spaghetti and meatballs, beef nachos, and chicken Alfredo.
S.B. Unified School is not alone in adding more vegan options to the lunch menu. Last year, all 1,200 schools within the New York City public school district made the commitment to offer at least one plant-based meal daily. Two NYC schools within the district currently serve only vegetarian meals in the cafeteria. Both changes were made possible thanks to the efforts of the Coalition for Healthy School Food (CHSF), a non-profit organization that works to get more plant-based food options in schools. Currently, a group of NYC lawmakers is working to take it a step further by banning all processed meats from public schools.
Two other California school districts have also made efforts to offer students vegan meals. Last year, Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest district in the country, trialed a vegan school lunch pilot program. The pilot was so successful that as of January, 35 schools within the district now offer vegan options daily. And in an effort to combat climate change, schools within the Oakland Unified School District began offering more vegan options.
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