From the White House to local PTA meetings, school-provided nutrition has become an incredibly polarizing and heated topic over the last decade. As the financial burden of “healthy foods” became an argumentative foothold in the conversation, environmental programs took aim at proving that healthier, plant-based lunches, which also happen to be climate-friendly, is actually financially beneficial and not detrimental.

This argument is upheld in a new study conducted by Friends of the Earth, which highlights four case studies to reveal that there are greater financial benefits to serving plant-based, climate-friendly school lunches. The study was inspired by a 2017 analysis of the Oakland Unified School District in which they affected a 14 percent reduction in their carbon footprint, while also saving $42,000 over a two-year period of time. How did they do this? By simply serving “less meat and more plant-based foods.”

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The author of the Friends of the Earth report, Kari Hamerschlag, also the deputy director of Friends of the Earth Food and Agriculture, emphasizes the climate impact of non-plant-based lunches, “If every public school swapped out a beef burger for a veggie burger just once a month, it would save 1.4 billion pounds of CO2 a year.”

While this study shows incredible gains, it’s an uphill battle to effect change. Per an FDA survey conducted in 2017, close to 100,000 schools and institutions serve school lunches, culminating in 4.9 billion lunches served annually — including free, reduced price, and full price meals — which costs the federal government over 13 billion dollars in reimbursements and commodity costs. Even though these numbers are daunting, there are many resources for schools looking to take advantage of the purported financial gains of plant-based, climate-friendly meals. In order to help schools and institutions, Friends of the Earth devised a program resource guide called “Scaling Up Healthy, Climate-Friendly School Food”. The guide “provides resources and numerous examples from 18 public school districts showcasing” successful strategies and climate benefits for “plant-forward foods on their lunch menus.” Hopefully, this initiative, backed by careful and diligent research, will encourage more schools to change their lunch program tune!

Wondering what a plant-based, climate-friendly lunch looks like? Here are some great recipe ideas to pack for your child’s lunch next week! Courtesy of the Food Monster App.

Chickpea Tuna Salad Sandwich

Chickpea Tuna Salad Sandwich/One Green Planet

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Michele Elizabeth‘s simple, easy, and tasty Chickpea Tuna Salad Sandwich also happens to 100 percent vegan and environment-friendly! This 15-minute, unique recipe incorporates highly nutritious veggies, loaded flavor, and filling proteins and fiber.

4-Ingredient No-Bake Banana Bread Bars

4-Ingredient No-Bake Banana Bread Bars/One Green Planet

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Try out Michele Elizabeth ‘s 4-Ingredient No-Bake Banana Bread Bar bread recipe, which takes a twist on the traditional banana bread. With only four ingredients, this is a great plant-based snack!

Veggie Protein Burritos

Veggie Protein Burrito/One Green Planet

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Packed with protein and fiber, this Veggie Protein Burrito byRobin Runner keeps your brain humming and your tummy full for a longer period of time. Plus, it’s a great recipe to substitute and use leftovers from last night’s dinner!

For more like Nutritious Plant-Based Meals Every Kid Will Love, we recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out! 

 

Lead Image Source: Shutterstock

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