The passage of Illinois Governor's bill that requires school districts to serve plant-based meals may seem like a small step. However, it could make a world of difference, and it could promote a healthier lifestyle for all students, regardless of race or religion. Still, there are some districts that do not offer such meals, and if the legislation is passed in its current form, some districts will not have them at all.
House Bill 4089
The introduction of Illinois House Bill 4089 has sparked a debate over whether the legislation is fair, and whether it will be good for students. If passed, the new law would require schools to provide a plant-based option for students' lunches. Under the bill, schools would have to meet federal dietary guidelines to be included in the menu. Currently, milk is required to accompany all school meals. But the USDA is urging school districts to develop additional ways to offer fruits and vegetables to students.
In 2014, a study conducted by the Humane Research Council found that one in ten Americans had tried a plant-based diet. Another survey conducted by National Public Radio revealed that 33 percent of Americans surveyed were interested in cutting down their meat consumption. However, this new bill may not have a dramatic impact on all schools. Many school districts may not have access to the necessary resources to serve plant-based meals.
The House Bill 4089 aims to do just that. It amends the School Code to require school districts to serve a plant-based meal option in their public schools. This legislation replaces an engrossed bill and requires school boards to give advance notice to the school district. The bill also makes a few other changes, including making grammatical changes. The bill's effective date is August 1, 2023, and is expected to apply to public high schools and school districts.
The bill was sponsored by Lean and Green Kids and endorsed by a broad range of organizations including the American Cancer Society, the California State Parent-Teachers Association, the California Association of Student Councils, and the Animal Legislative Action Network. The bill has been signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and has been approved by the state's Legislature.
Illinois Department of Education
The new legislation is a significant step forward for school districts in Illinois. It aims to ensure that students receive a variety of nutritious foods and is sure to set a precedent for other school districts across the United States. Moreover, the legislation includes new meals for Muslim students, which adhere to halal dietary laws. However, some school districts may not offer such meals, so this legislation may prove to be a roadblock.
The federal school meal program does not subsidize meals that do not contain cow's milk. This is despite the fact that federal regulations prohibit discrimination. Illinois' new legislation is expected to take effect in August 2023. It is part of a nationwide movement to make school lunches more nutritious. A recent study has found that vegetarian children are just as healthy as carnivorous children, proving that plant-based foods do not lack nutritional benefits for children of school age.
While diverting food scraps from schools is prohibited in Illinois, several states have enacted policies that permit it. You can find these policies in Leftovers for Livestock: A Legal Guide to Food Scraps in Schools, published by the Wasted Food Action Alliance, provides an overview of state regulations. In addition to diverting food, it is important to keep track of all waste that occurs during food preparation, during the serving line, and after students have eaten. Food waste audits are a great way to involve students in authentic learning.
A number of Illinois school districts have implemented share tables to reduce food waste during lunchtime. Share tables allow students to bring home any leftover food. Surplus food may be redistributed through share tables or re-served by food service. The remainder of the leftover food can be donated to a nonprofit or composted if the school has a composting program in place.
The global food services and facilities management leader Sodexo has announced plans to make campus meals more plant-based. This is a key part of its sustainability plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions by 34 percent by 2025. Sodexo has partnered with the Humane Society to create plant-based menu options in schools and universities nationwide. It also has goals to eliminate meat and dairy products from its menus.
The partnership will also involve new virtual training for culinary plant-based food preparation and will collect student feedback and calculate greenhouse gas savings. Veggabols will be introduced in all Whitsons school nutrition locations in Fall 2022. The partnership is the Humane Society's latest effort to improve school meals, which also involves collaborating with catering giant Sodexo. The company's efforts will benefit more than just the students.
According to the Institute of Food Technologies, 24% of U.S. youth are following a vegetarian diet. These trends are especially relevant to institutions with high populations of educated young adults. For these reasons, Sodexo has pledged to make at least 42% of all menu items plant-based by 2025. Not only will this help meet demand, but it will also reduce carbon emissions.
According to Switch4Good, more than 80 percent of Asian and Black students are lactose intolerant. Sodexo is implementing plant-based meals in schools and commercial foodservice channels across the country. In addition, the company has also committed to offering more grab-and-go meals to elementary school students. Moreover, the company is aiming to improve their overall adaptability and resilience.
Humane Society of the United States
The Humane Society of the United States has launched the Forward Food Challenge to encourage dining operations to switch to plant-based meals. The nonprofit has also partnered with university partners to provide specialized plant-based options to students. In all, the initiative aims to make more than half of public school menus plant-based by 2025. In Portland, Maine, students are already able to choose between a plant-based or a meat-based meal.
In addition to working with universities and other educational institutions, the Humane Society is proud to partner with Davidson College to implement a program that provides plant-based meals at public schools. The partnership has the potential to improve the quality of food served at public schools while helping animals. Davidson's campus has a reputation for producing high-quality plant-based meals and has a strong vegan culture.
The Humane Society of the United States is making the transition to a vegan diet easier for schoolchildren. The nonprofit's efforts have been rewarded with a national award and the Humane Society of the United States has pledged to help the school system transition to plant-based meals. HSUS also partnered with catering giant Sodexo to ensure that plant-based meals will be served at public schools.
A collaboration between Sodexo and the Humane Society of the United States has fueled this partnership. The two organizations have pledged to work together on new initiatives to reduce the impact of climate change, reduce carbon footprint and increase plant-based menu choices. This collaboration is part of the company's strategy to reduce carbon emissions by 34% by 2025. The Humane Society of the United States is proud to support Sodexo's mission to make public schools a more sustainable environment for children.
Sodexo's partnership with Humane Society of the United States
To promote a healthy lifestyle and reduce climate change, Sodexo is committed to serving more plant-based meals. In addition to its commitment to plant-based meals, the company is committed to reducing its environmental footprint through collaboration with the HSUS. By collaborating with the HSUS, Sodexo is able to provide healthier menu options for children and staff in the foodservice industry.
Using plant-based ingredients for meals will be beneficial to both students and families. Sodexo's Sustainable Diets Strategy is delivering numerous benefits for both customers and clients. It has developed a variety of products that mimic real food. One example is the JUST Egg brand, which has the ability to cook and bake like real eggs.
In addition to offering more plant-based menu items, Sodexo has implemented several innovative programs to promote healthy eating. For example, it has collaborated with the HSUS to implement plant-based training for over 11,000 culinary staff at large food service operations. These efforts have led to an increase in plant-based sales. Currently, 40 percent of customers choose plant-based menu items daily. Before the HSUS's partnership, only 5 percent of Valley Hospital meals were plant-based. After implementing the program, Valley Hospital has increased its plant-based menu to 35 percent, and has committed to reaching 50% of their menu by 2020.
Another initiative to promote plant-based menu items is the Salvador municipal government's partnership with Conscious Eating Brazil. In a move to make healthy eating more accessible to children, the city hall of Salvador in Brazil announced a 10-million-people-strong plan to serve schoolchildren vegan meals. The program is designed to promote healthy eating habits for low-income families.