College meals are going plant-based

Sodexo Food Service

Sodexo, a giant food service company, is increasing its plant-based offerings at hundreds of college campus cafeterias over the next few years, with the goal of reducing their carbon footprint by 34%.  They are aiming for 42% of the menus to be plant-based at hundreds of colleges and universities by 2025.

The push to move toward more plant-based menus is being driven by an initiative between Sodexo and its longtime partner Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which has been helping Sodexo to update their menus and animal welfare policies over the past 15 years. 

Sodexo Campus, the foodservice company’s college and university subsidiary, discovered that 70% of its carbon footprint in 2020 came from animal-based food purchases.  By switching to plant-based offerings which have a much lower carbon footprint, they will be able to meet their climate goals of slashing carbon emissions by 34% by 2025.

“I’m thankful to Sodexo for being a leader in the industry by committing to the tangible changes required to meet greenhouse gas emission goals. By developing a plant-based initiative that includes menu goals, recipe innovation, and customer satisfaction, Sodexo has found a formula for success.” Said Karla Dumas, RDN, Director of Food Service Innovation at HSUS, in a statement.

This move makes sense from many different perspectives, since demand for plant-based foods, especially among students, is growing rapidly.  A recent survey found that 23% of 18-25 year olds say that they adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet, with nearly a third of these youth increasing their consumption of plant-based proteins in 2021 alone.  So far 140 universities serviced by Sodexo have implemented programs where Sodexo chefs undergo plant-based menu training led by HSUS.  This program is in addition to other initiatives to incorporate meals based on Impossible Foods and Just Egg in many of the meals the company serves to 75 million consumers at corporate, college and healthcare cafeterias every day.

“When you see there are more than 20,000 known edible plants on our planet, and yet our food comes primarily from a dozen of them, there is definitely [an] opportunity to change and discover new ways of eating,” John Wright, Senior Vice President, Sodexo Food Platform, said in a statement at the time. “Today, we are helping consumers as they look for ways to adopt more sustainable diets.”