Updated July 5, 2019 | Healthy, climate-friendly vegan meals may soon be available to more than six million students in public schools throughout California.
The new bill –introduced in February by Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys) — would incentivize K-12 public schools to offer plant-based meals and milk. It has passed the Senate Education Committee with seven votes to none and now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Under AB-479, the Healthy Climate-Friendly School Lunch Act, schools would also receive state funding for serving vegan school lunch.
“AB-479 will increase access to healthy food options for low-income communities and reduce our carbon footprint at the same time,” said Assemblymember Nazarian.
Healthy, Planet-Friendly Food for Students
Studies have shown that swapping animal ingredients for vegan food is not only better for the body, but also the planet. According to the EAT-Lancet Commission, a study on food’s sustainability, people should shift toward a primarily plant-based diet in order to combat climate change and feed the growing global population.
Plant-based crops as a whole use less land and water and emit fewer greenhouse gases (GHG). The new bill coincides with California’s climate strategy of slashing its GHG emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels.
“Our state is a global microcosm with many different cultural needs,” Nazarian continued. “California’s school meal policy should not only reflect this diversity, but also incorporate the extensive research on the health benefits of plant-based nutrition.”
A number of non-profit organizations have co-sponsored the bill, including Animal Hope in Legislation, Friends of the Earth, Social Compassion in Legislation, and PCRM.
“Bringing plant-based meals to schools will help students establish healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime,” said PCRM president Dr. Neal Barnard. “Not only do these foods help students stay focused and energized in the classroom today, but they also reduce long-term risk for heart disease, type-2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases.”
Vegan School Lunches in California Schools
The landmark measure leverages the success of California school districts such as Oakland, LA, San Francisco, Novato, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Riverside, and Capistrano, all of which offer healthier, plant-based lunches.
Oakland’s vegan options have allowed the district to save $40,000 and 42 million gallons of water over the past two years. According to LAUSD, some menu items “run out quickly because they are so popular.”
“As the world moves forward and progressively changes, the way we teach our youth will impact not only the climate. But our ethics, our morals, and the future that comes before us. This program is about choices. Choosing not just for ourselves, but the environment, and our children,” said Marc Ching, Founder and CEO of Animal Hope in Legislation.
AB-479 would also provide support for staff, students, recipe development and other assistance needed to serve vegan school lunch.