California encourages plant-based options

Patient eating Hospital foodCalifornians who are in a hospital, nursing home or prison may soon be able to choose a totally plant-based diet.  State Senator Nancy Skinner has introduced Senate bill 1138, which requires these institutions to make a vegan meal available to those who request it.  While the option of a vegetarian meal was already required, this new bill allows for the option of meat-free, fish-free, dairy-free and totally vegan meals.

The reasoning behind the bill focuses on the health benefits of plant-based eating, and the government promise to provide all inmates with nutritious food. “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.

However, increasing the availability of vegetable-based dietary options would also help the state meet water conservation goals, as tofu and foods like pasta require less water to produce than meat.

Offering plant-based meal options is a great way to give people healthy choices and reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions,” Skinner said. “But most importantly, I want to make sure we’re being fair and giving those in institutional settings food options that meet their individual needs.”

So far no one has come out against the vegan requirement and it has sailed through its first committee hearing with a unanimous vote. Skinner said she hasn’t yet heard any arguments against it.

Meanwhile in Washington, we seem to be heading in the opposite direction, with no apparent regulations about food in hospitals, and with the food service to prisoners being ever more standardized and pre-packaged. A report produced in 2016 called Correcting Food Policy in Washington’s Prisons, focused on the need to switch from cheap packaged food products to fresher, locally made foods. Unfortunately, it did not address the need for vegetarian or vegan diets, and little seems to have been done since to improve our state’s institutional food.

Come on, Washington, you can do better than this!