Reading Time: 2 minutes All meals will now be free of cancer-causing processed meats (Photo: Licensed from Adobe. Do not re-use without permission)
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) is the first known school district in the US to remove processed meats from its lunch menus.

The change – which became official earlier this month – was motivated by health and the scientific correlation between processed meats and cancer.

With the new policy, foods such as hot dogs, pepperoni, and bacon – all classed as carcinogens by the World Health Organization – won’t appear on the lunch menu of any of the district’s 21 elementary and secondary schools.

‘The right thing’

In a press release, Santa Barbara’s Food Service Director Nancy Weiss said: “SBUSD is committed to serving our students nutritious foods that will help them learn and grow.

“It’s the right thing to do to ensure that our students are getting the highest-quality food. There’s no room for carcinogens on the lunch line.”

Plant-based alternatives

Aside from the removal of processed meat, the SBUSD has a plant-based policy in place, in which all of its schools offer a fully vegan option at every meal.

Vegan options such as subs, curries, burritos and Mexican-inspired pozole account for half of the 2 million meals served by SBUSD schools annually.

National leader

In a press release, Dietitian Maggie Neola, R.D. of plant-based nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said: “SBUSD has long been a leader when it comes to serving healthy school food and nutrition education.

“Removing processed meat from the menu and focusing on plant-based alternatives will not only help to reduce students’ cancer risk, but it will also reduce their heart disease, obesity, and diabetes risk in the future and boost performance in the classroom today.”

Other institutions

Institutional changes in the area are by no means limited to school lunch programs.

The entire state of California passed a law earlier this month which regulates meal options available at hospitals and prisons.

Cosponsored by Social Compassion in Legislation and the PCRM, Senate Bill 1138 requires a vegan meal option to be offered at every meal to every patient and inmate statewide.

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Emily Court

Emily Court is a writer and content creator published in Plant Based News, Raise Vegan, Living Vegan and The Financial Diet. A self-described "recovering vegan hothead," she is now a pragmatic member of Vancouver's vibrant and growing plant-powered community. Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, she holds a BA in Spanish and certificate in Intercultural Communication from Dalhousie University, where her thesis focused on topics of cultural and gender-based discrimination. She aims to apply a privilege-conscious and culturally sensitive approach to her work in all fields.