What pops into your head when you think of school cafeteria lunch lines? If you’re like us, memories of glaring hot lamps shining on greasy pepperoni pizzas or slices of rubbery meatloaf come to mind.
Every year in the U.S., the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) serves 30 million K-12 kids 5 billion lunches — more meals than all the U.S.’ McDonalds, Subway and Starbucks combined.
3 National School Lunch Program Fast Facts.
The United States operates the largest domestic restaurant chain, the NSLP, and its hidden inside your child's school cafeteria.
The NSLP serves twice as many lunches a day as McDonald's.
Serves more domestic locations than Subway, Starbucks and McDonald’s combined.
Unfortunately, the NSLP, operated by the USDA, fills cafeteria menus with highly-processed meat and dairy-heavy meals due to archaic subsidies. Hamstrung by their reliance on the program, food service professionals are resource-strapped as they work with limited budgets, outdated equipment and minimal staff.
Therein lies both the problem, and the opportunity, for schools, passionate parents, students and administrators to make an impact on the health of their school community by influencing school districts to serve delicious, plant-based, climate-friendly foods. That’s why we created a guide to support the people feeding America’s kids, OMD’s Plant-Based Food Service Guide and School Lunch Toolkit for Change to make cafeterias greener, one school lunch at a time.
Why We Care.
Health: Bright, healthy kids need the right fuel! Did you know studies show that children who eat plant-based foods grow as tall or taller than their meat-eating peers? We can boost children’s intake of vegetables, grains, fruits, legumes and nuts by guiding them to eat at least one plant-based meal a day. Plus, kids who eat plant-forward diets are more protected from health risks like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease later in life.
Environment: Animal agriculture is the #2 contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, contributing more than all transportation combined and the largest contributor to deforestation (including the raging Amazon fires), water use and pollution, and dead zones in the ocean. Also, land used for raising livestock and to grow feed is the leading cause of mass extinction today as wildlife lose vital habitat.
But imagine the change we can create for our wild living Earth. For example, if every student participating in the NSLP chose a plant-based meal for a year, it would be like:
Offsetting the water usage of all California households
Taking every car in Oregon off the road
Saving a forest the size of New York
There are success stories of school districts that have put serving more plant-based foods to the test. For example, Oakland Unified School District reduced its meat and dairy purchases, saving water, cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions and saving money.
Plant-Based Support for Food Service Professionals.
After talking to food service professionals around the country, we created a new resource to support the hardworking people feeding our kids — OMD’s Plant-Based Food Service Guide. Inside, we answered top questions from the field and created free, specially-designed materials to set folks up for success including more than a week’s worth of NSLP-eligible, fully reimbursable school lunch recipes, a one-sheet to educate parents, marketing collateral for students and more.
Whether you’re a food service pro looking to offer healthy meals to your students, or if you’re a passionate supporter looking to start a revolution in your school cafeteria, consider this your handbook to get there.
Download the Plant-Based Food Service Guide today!
OMD seeks to increase access to healthier, climate-friendly foods in K-12 schools with the help of people like you. Together with our partners at Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Friends of the Earth and Chef Ann Foundation, you can join the movement to create change.