California Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian announced proposed legislation last week that would provide financial incentives for public schools to offer plant-based meals and milk. AB 479, also known as the Healthy Climate-Friendly School Lunch Act, would also provide support for staff training and recipe development in order to implement the transition.
“This is going to be one option that looks at not only making us more healthy as Californians, not only helping us meet our climate goals, but also allowing us to save money in the long run,” Nazarian said when the legislation was announced.
City Councilman Paul Koretz, also present for the announcement of the bill, said the idea has received “a lot of positive feedback.”
Evidence indicating the power of a plant-based diet in mitigating the effects of climate change continues to grow. One recent study in Climate Policy showed that a transition to a plant-based diet could "drastically help" meet 2030 global climate targets and has the potential to feed an additional 350 million people in the U.S. alone.
One 2017 case study from Friends of the Earth focusing on Oakland, California’s Unified School District showed that reducing meat and cheese in school lunches by just 30 percent both saved $42,000 and reduced the district’s carbon footprint by 14 percent.
A 2018 research review from Oxford found that a vegan diet "is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth."
In 2017, seven Los Angeles United School District high schools were part of a pilot program offering vegan school lunch options. The program, which was inspired in part by work by eighth-grade student Lila Copeland, proved immediately successful among vegan and non-vegan students alike, according to LA School Report, with students choosing vegan lunch 13 percent of the time on average.
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