Norwalk Public Schools are upgrading their school lunch menu to include a daily vegan entrée. They were already offering veggie burgers, vegetable-based “chik’n” nuggets, hummus or black beans and corn over chips, chickpea salad, crumbled Impossible beef nacho topping, and sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwiches. But many of these options contained animal-based ingredients that were not vegan-friendly.
They are now adding sweet and crunchy chickpea wraps, Impossible burgers, and a Mediterranean salad. This change makes buying lunch more accessible for students with dietary restrictions, making it more fair and considerate for students who otherwise had to bring their lunches from home.
The nonprofit “Friends of Animals” coordinated with school board member, Kara Nelson Baekey, to emphasize the importance of inclusive meals that can serve not just vegans, but also students with allergies or dairy intolerance. “It’s so important that we as a district walk the walk when talking about equity and inclusion for all students,” Baekey said in a statement. “Dietary needs and preferences are an area that most don’t consider when thinking about these commitments, so thank you to Friends of Animals for bringing it to our attention…”
The vegan options are available to all students, regardless of their dietary choices. Beyond increased inclusivity for students with varying diets, the menu embraces environmentalism, acknowledging that animal farming contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
Here’s a great investment. California just approved a $700 million investment for public schools to improve cafeteria food service infrastructure with $100 million dedicated to expanding the plant-based and sustainable food offerings with the help of Impossible Foods, which just launched two new meatless options specifically for students. The additional $600 million will be allocated to compensating workers, increasing food budgets, and upgrading kitchen appliances. Participating public schools will receive reimbursement funding for their efforts in expanding the plant-based and sustainable food offerings.
California will become the first state to invest public funds into a plant-based meal program. The budget will allow schools to better cater to plant-based students as well as adapt to other dietary restrictions. This program will give students an opportunity to learn about healthier eating at a younger age.
Soon after California passed this investment, Impossible Foods announced that it would launch new selections developed for school lunch menus. The food tech brand – which acquired Child Nutrition [CN] certification last year for the Impossible Burger and Sausage – unveiled a fully cooked Impossible Burger Patty that can be easily reheated by standard cafeteria kitchen appliances. The kid-friendly patty promises a completely balanced nutritional profile and earned a CN label from the US Department of Agriculture.
In addition, the brand will provide new whole grain Impossible Chicken Nuggets, slated to become available in by the end of 2022. The new plant-based nuggets will contain five more grams of fiber, 13 grams of protein per serving, and 40 percent less saturated fat than conventional chicken nuggets.
Before California’s statewide plant-based program was signed into law, several smaller-scale campaigns have helped bring plant-based meals to kids nationwide. This February, New York City public schools initiated the “Vegan Fridays” project to help introduce students to healthier, more eco-friendly meal options. Catering to all 1 million students in the NYC public school system, the new program led by vegan Mayor Eric Adams will help provide students with plant-based meals that would otherwise have low access to these foods.
The state of Illinois has passed a bill (HB 4089) in both houses, that requires a school district to provide a plant-based school lunch option to those students who submit a prior request to the school district. It now just awaits the governor’s signature.
“All students deserve the opportunity to have a well-rounded, nutritional meal at school that meets their dietary needs,” said sponsoring senator Dave Koehler, D-Peoria. “For some kids it may be the only substantial meal they get that day, and they need to be able to make the most of it.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that starting next school year, all schools in the city will have vegetarian meals on Mondays.
According to the mayor, the Meatless Mondays program is aimed at improving student health and the city’s environmental impact, “We’re expanding Meatless Mondays to all public schools to keep our lunch and planet green for generations to come.” the mayor said.
“Meatless Mondays” are good for the environment, said Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza. “Our 1.1 million students are taking the next step towards healthier, more sustainable lives.”
Food such as lentil Sloppy Joes, pasta fagioli, Mexicali chili, braised black beans with plantains, and teriyaki crunchy tofu will now be served in New York City’s public schools!
This progress comes on the heels of three New York City schools that have become completely all vegetarian every day of the week-and the kids love it. Parents have also become very supportive of the change as they see improvements in their children.
For years we’ve heard every excuse from many of Washington’s public schools. But, if a city as big and diverse as New York can do it, we’re sure Seattle can as well. Let’s hope New York City will set an example for Seattle and other cities to follow.