Assembly Education Committee Approves Landmark Expansion of K-12 Plant-Based Lunch Options
(Sacramento, CA) On a vote of 5-0-1, the Assembly Committee on Education today approved Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian’s (D-Van Nuys) Assembly Bill 479 incentivizing K-12 public schools to offer healthier, climate-friendly lunch options.
Called the Healthy Climate-Friendly School Lunch Act, AB 479 would provide schools with additional state funding for serving plant-based entrées and plant-based milk. The bill also includes critical state support for staff training, student engagement, recipe development, and other technical assistance needed to help public schools boost participation rates and successfully serve plant-based foods.
“We’re passed the stage where our only school lunch options are meat and potatoes,” stated Nazarian. “Plant-based meals are healthier for our children and will reduce our state’s carbon footprint.”
The legislation does not mandate a plant-based diet in schools but incentivizes schools to offer plant-based options. While numerous school districts across the state want to increase plant-based offerings, many face cost barriers since animal-based foods and cow’s milk are heavily subsidized by the federal government relative to plant-based options.
According to the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, plant-based diets can reduce the risk of diabetes, help manage weight and provide protection against cancer and other diseases. Plant-based food can also benefit the environment, as noted by Tufts University researchers. They found that shifting to more plant-based choices can reduce the carbon footprint by lowering greenhouse gas emissions and utilizing less land and water for food production.
“By replacing a portion of the millions of pounds of meat served each year with plant-based entrees, this bill will help California public schools reduce their carbon footprint while serving kids healthier food,” said Kari Hamerschlag, Deputy Director of Food and Agriculture at Friends of the Earth. “If every California public school swapped out a beef burger for a veggie burger just once a month, it would save 300 million pounds of CO2 a year.”
“I’m glad to see California’s leaders prioritizing the health of students by moving AB 479 forward,” says Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “Plant-based school meals not only protect students’ health, but they also teach compassion for the environment and those we share it with.”
“The fact is that more and more young people are choosing a vegan diet, for the climate, for their health, or simply because they love animals,” said Judie Mancuso, Founder and CEO of Social Compassion in Legislation, a sponsor of the bill. “This committee vote is an important first step towards giving our children the support they need to make responsible choices.”
Marc Ching, Founder and CEO of Animal Hope in Legislation, added: “We are thrilled the bill has made it through the Education Committee and thank Assemblymember Nazarian for his leadership. This is a logical and strong policy that will have an effect on children’s futures. As a father of a child that does not eat meat- this bill provides a choice to thousands of children across our state who need an option other than what is currently provided.”
Cosponsored by Animal Hope in Legislation, Friends of the Earth, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and Social Compassion in Legislation, AB 479 has received widespread support from more than 50 organizations. These include food, environmental, and animal protection groups, labor unions, individual school districts, and the California School Boards Association. The bill has also received support from celebrity figures such as Alicia Silverstone, Whitney Cummings, Adrianna Costa, Kip Anderson, and Shaun Monson.
AB 479 will next be heard by the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.
Adrin Nazarian represents the 46th Assembly District, serving the San Fernando Valley communities of Hollywood Hills, Lake Balboa, North Hills, North Hollywood, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Universal City, Van Nuys, and Valley Village