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Friends of the Earth Applauds D.C. Council for Increasing Healthy, Sustainable Food Options in Schools

D.C. becomes first in the nation to require vegetarian and plant-based meal options at school lunch

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Council of the District of Columbia voted unanimously today to increase healthy, plant-forward meal options for students. The legislation also formally adopts the Good Food Purchasing Program across D.C. public schools.

If signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Healthy Students Amendment Act will make D.C. the first state to require that vegetarian options be proactively provided to students each day. Further, it requires that fully plant-based options (options with no animal products) be provided to students whose parents make a request, which they will now be able to do without obtaining a doctor’s note. Parents participating in the D.C. School Food Advisory Board identified increasing healthy, plant-based options as a priority.

“Providing students with healthy, vegetarian and plant-based options is not only critical to meeting each students’ ethical, religious or dietary needs — these meals are also healthier and better for the planet,” said Chloë Waterman, senior food campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “We applaud Councilmembers Mary Cheh and David Grosso for their leadership in passing the Healthy Students Amendment Act and D.C. Public Schools’ Food and Nutrition Services and D.C. Central Kitchen for striving to improve the quality of student meals.”

“I’m delighted the Council is listening—not just to us parents but also to the overwhelming evidence in support of plant-based eating, “ said Emilie Cassou, a DCPS parent. “I look forward to the day I can rely on DCPS to serve our kids cooked food that is minimally processed and plant-based—and, of course, tasty. I have high hopes that DCPS will embrace the Healthy Students Amendment Act with good will and creativity.”

Washington, D.C., is part of a national trend of K-12 schools embracing healthy, plant-forward food options that are documented in Friends of the Earth’s latest report, “Scaling Up Healthy, Climate-Friendly School Food.” Offering more plant-based options is a cost-effective strategy to improve student health and mitigate climate change.

Friends of the Earth conducted a pilot analysis with Oakland Unified School District in California as they decreased their meat and dairy purchases by 30 percent over a period of two years. The district reduced their carbon footprint by 14 percent and their water footprint by six percent. They were able to increase purchases of higher quality and local food options and save $42,000 from their annual budget. Student satisfaction increased by 23 percent.

The Healthy Students Amendment Act will also make the District of Columbia the first East Coast school district to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Program, a values-based food procurement policy that will ensure a portion of the district’s food purchasing advances good nutrition, a valued workforce, environmental sustainability, local economies and animal welfare. Friends of the Earth helped lead the local coalition of food justice, labor, animal welfare and environmental groups that have been working for two years to bring the program to the District. 

Expert contact: Chloe Waterman, (812) 345-4585, CWaterman@foe.org
Communications contact: Patrick Davis, (202) 222-0744, pdavis@foe.org

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