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Those of you who were sack-lunch kids may not remember the horrors we hot-lunchers saw waiting in line at the school’s cafeteria: thick brown sludge that could double as spaghetti sauce or chili and hot dogs that had been sitting in warming trays for days. Yes, it was traumatizing. Thankfully, Oakland schools have adopted a lunch menu that favors plant-based foods and greatly reduces the amount of meat and cheese on the menu – say goodbye to hard hot dogs, kids!

The Oakland Unified School District partnered with Friends of the Earth (FOE) to help them design their new menu. FOE, an organization that is dedicated to a healthy planet and healthy people, did extensive research on how to create the healthiest options for the children of Oakland at the lowest environmental cost. Jennifer LeBarre, the spokeswoman for FOE, told the press “We were so excited to see how the data showed that we could reduce our carbon and water footprint by serving healthy, delicious food – like the vegetarian tostadas with fresh made in-house salsa, that kids absolutely love!” That sounds so much better than mystery chili.

And not only is the new lunch menu healthier and tastier, these new lunch options have a much lower carbon footprint than their predecessors. Harvard’s School of Public Health released it’s 2016 Menus of Change report which stated that “greater emphasis on healthy plant-based foods—including plant-based proteins—is the single most important contribution the foodservice industry can make toward environmental sustainability.” And they’re not wrong, animal agriculture comes with an incredibly high environmental cost.

The animal agriculture industry is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. It also occupies 45 percent of arable land and uses 23 percent of the world’s fresh water. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that the FOE’s study found that if every school district in the U.S. adopted this type of food policy, it would be equivalent to taking “150,000 cars off the road every year.” And hope that more schools in America, and around the world, keep moving towards a plant-based diet. Why would anyone say no to healthier, better tasting, more environmentally-friendly food? They wouldn’t.

But you don’t have to be a kid in Oakland to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet. It’s super easy to cut meat and cheese out of your diet and by doing so, you can also cut your carbon footprint in half. The plant-based isle in supermarkets is growing rapidly and there are so many delicious meat-free options for dinner – and any other meal you have in mind.

For more information on how you can use your food choices to benefit the planet, join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet movement.

Image source: Billion Photos/Shutterstock

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