Writer and Editor | Newcastle, Australia | Contactable via: jemima@livekindly.co

A new bill introduced in California would require facilities such as hospitals and prisons, to offer plant-based vegan meals. According to a press release, the bill has been sponsored by Social Compassion in Legislation and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an organization made up of 12,000 doctors.

The bill introduced by Sen. Nancy Skinner urges healthcare facilities and state prisons in California to offer food which contains no animal products or by-products. The reasoning behind the bill focuses on the reported health benefits of plant-based eating and draws attention to the government’s promise to supply inmates with nutritious food.

Section 2084 of the California Penal Code does allow inmates access to vegetarian meals, however, vegan meals are currently not included. The legislation writes: “vegetarian meals shall be available at all institutions upon request for inmates with any religious, personal, or ethical dietary need.”

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However, Skinner said: “Everyone in the state of California deserves the same access to nutritious food”.

The California Penal Code vows to provide inmates “with sufficient plain and wholesome food of such variety as may be most conducive to good health.”

A growing bank of research has linked meat and dairy consumption to a reduced standard of health. Most recently, studies have linked meat consumption to liver disease, kidney disease, and various forms of cancer. In contrast, those who follow a plant-based diet are said to experience less frequent bouts of illness and often show improved longevity.

“By ensuring that our hospitals and our prisons provide a plant-based meal option, [the bill] will help reduce chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease,” Skinner said.

The move comes shortly after groups overseas made similar requests to their governments. An organization in Scotland recently urged their government to modify policies surrounding provided meals in state facilities. The group points out that “veganism is a protected conviction under United Kingdom and European law, and has the same legal status as religious beliefs” and called on their government to “act in accordance with these rights.”

The director of nutrition education for PCRM, Susan Levin, said: “I’m glad to see California protecting the health of patients and prisoners by making plant-based options a priority”.