Schools in Illinois will soon be legally required to offer their students plant-based lunch options.
The new plant-based lunch bill (HB4089) was recently signed into law by the Governor of Illinois JB Pritzer and was first introduced last year by Representative Cyril Nichols (D). It will go into effect in August 2023.
The bill will require every school in the state to accommodate pupils who request plant-based or religious dietary-restricted options. All meals must meet federal nutrition guidelines.
Nichols said in a statement: “Well-rounded, nutritious parts of all kinds are vital to students’ ability to learn and succeed. Offering more healthy lunch options in our schools helps our students thrive.”
Schools go plant-based around the world
Schools across the US are embracing more plant-based options. In New York, a new Vegan Fridays initiative rolled out across the public school system earlier this year. And in 2021, some US schools piloted Impossible Foods’ plant-based meat products, after the brand secured Child Nutrition Labels from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services.
Impossible Foods’ founder Pat Brown said at the time: “Schools not only play a role in shaping children’s dietary patterns, they also play an important role in providing early education about climate change and its root causes.”
The meat industry contributes significantly to the climate crisis; it emits around 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gasses and is a leading driver of deforestation.
In France, 73 percent of elementary schools and nurseries offer vegetarian options at least once every week. UK schools are also reducing meat, and some have even removed it from the menu altogether.
In Exeter, Devon, one school started serving only meatless meals to its students in 2020. Instead of meat, it serves options like vegetable curry, dahl, and homemade pizza. The school’s principal Phil Arnold said: “It’s about mindfulness, mental health, and the environment and climate.”