Nobody can deny the importance of the school lunches, what they include, and how accessible they are. Usually, when we think of school lunches – the image of a hard pizza, and “mystery” meat – and with the new head of Agriculture looking to bring back sugary drinks and unhealthy food options to schools, things do look pretty bleak for America’s school children.
Fortunately, when it comes to this important issue, some schools are taking a stand – a number of schools have introduced changes that have sparked national interest. For example, the Oakland Unified School District has changed its menu to reduce meat and cheese options and added was more fresh produce and whole grains, and in the Los Angeles Unified School District, a vegan lunch option was fought for with determination by the teenage activist Lila Copeland. These and other similar changes happened despite, or in active opposition to, the relaxing of regulations set in place.
Now, a great news about the school lunch issue comes from Brazil, where schools in three cities will serve 140,000 vegan meals per week! Officials in Várzea Grande, Cuiabá, and Sao Gonçalo have publicly committed to serving school children one plant-based meal every week at city-run schools. The commitments came into being under the Alimentação Consciente Brasil (“Conscious Eating Brasil”) food policy program which was initiated by the animal-rights organization Mercy For Animals (MFA). In Cuiabá, officials also agreed to implement the new food policy in city-run social assistance programs.
According to MFA, the initiative will create as much as five million vegan meals a year that would otherwise contain animal products – which breaks down to around 140,000 plant-based meals every week. All in all, the food policy program in the cities will spare 110,000 animals per year from life at factory farms!
As reported by VegNews.com, plant-based is growing quickly in Brazil, which is especially interesting since the country is traditionally known for consuming and producing high amounts of meat. Gustavo Guadagnini, the Brazilian director of non-profit organization Good Food Institute, recently reported that plant-based companies in Brazil are increasing at a fantastic rate of 40 percent annually.
The introduction of vegan meals in schools is a big win – for everyone promoting healthy, plant-based eating, but, first and foremost, for all of us, for the animals, and for our planet. The presence of vegan meals in schools has a number of fantastic outcomes – among other things, it provides the students with a healthy meal good for their physical and mental health, it saves large numbers of animals from lifelong suffering in factory farms, and it can help children learn the impact of their food choices from a young age.
Industrialized animal agriculture is at the heart of our environmental crisis. Not only is this industry responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector, it also currently occupies over half of the world’s arable land and uses a majority of the world’s freshwater stores. The good news is, we can all reduce the impact of our diets by choosing more plant-based foods over meat and dairy.
To learn more about how you can start today, check out One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign.
Aleksandra Pajda a writer and illustrator living in Poland. This piece appeared in One Green Planet.