Call to Action for Plant-Based Meals Served in CA Schools!
AB 558 (Nazarian), the Child Nutrition Act of 2022 Passes the Assembly Education Committee by a 5 to 0 vote!
January 12, 2022 – Sacramento, CA
Today, AB 558, the Child Nutrition Act of 2022, authored by Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian and cosponsored by Social Compassion in Legislation, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and Friends of the Earth, which incentivizes K-12 public schools across the state to offer healthier, climate-friendly plant-based meals and beverages passed the Assembly Education Committee by a vote of 5-0. Under the grant program set up by the bill, schools could apply to receive additional state funding for serving a plant-based entrée and plant-based milk.
AB 558 also includes 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.
“Today, AB 558, “The Childhood Nutrition Act of 2022,” passed its first hurdle after it passed in the Education Committee with a 5 to 0 vote. The Childhood Nutrition Act of 2022 will seek to improve the quality of food our kids eat while reducing greenhouse gas emissions through incentivizing healthy, all-inclusive diets. This bill will also assist school districts to adequately address the hunger needs of younger children who are not yet of school-age to have access to food, specifically breakfast, to guarantee that they are fed the most important meal of the day. As the bill moves forward in the process, we are excited to continue fighting for Childhood Nutrition!” stated Assemblymember Nazarian.
Multiple studies show that a plant-based diet is more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Shifting to more plant-based options reduce our carbon footprint by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and requires less land and water for food production.
“California serves an astounding 540 million school lunches each year. The policies that the State implements around what foods are served has an enormous impact not only on our students’ health, but also, and less obviously, an equally enormous impact on our environment and climate change,” stated Nickolaus Sackett, Director of Legislative Affairs for cosponsor Social Compassion in Legislation. “By creating incentives for schools to reduce the carbon footprint of half a billion meals, we will see a massive and immediate impact in our State’s fight against climate change.”
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.
“More and more people my age understand that if you love animals, you don’t eat them. But it can be hard to find something to eat at school,” said Genesis Butler, Social Compassion in Legislation Board Member, who, at age 12, became one of the youngest people ever to give a TED Talk. “I’m glad California is giving us more options to help us, animals and the earth.”
According to the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a plant-based diet has substantial health benefits. It can reduce the risk of diabetes, help manage weight, and provide protection against cancer and other diseases.
“Bringing plant-based meals to schools will help students establish healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime,” said Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “Not only do these foods help students stay focused and energized in the classroom today, but they also reduce long-term risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases.”
Many school districts across the state, including Novato, San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, Capistrano, and others are reducing the carbon footprint of their food by serving delicious, healthier plant-based entrees. AB 558 will provide critical technical and financial support to expand these menu offerings and encourage many other schools to follow suit.
The bill now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Please keep an eye out for future updates on how to support AB 558!
We are off and running to save animals and promote healthy plant-based meals in 2022. We cannot thank you all enough for your support. All the calls are essential for success!
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Thank you so much,
Judie Mancuso, founder/CEO/president
Social Compassion in Legislation