Youth Push for Plant-Based School Food

Youth from Across the Country Visit Washington DC to Advocate for Plant-based School Food Options

14 high school and college students share their experiences eating school lunch with policymakers 

WASHINGTON – This week, members of the Plant Powered Youth Steering Committee met with their elected representatives and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to advocate for expanding daily access to plant-based meals in K-12 schools. 

The students – most of whom rely or have relied on free and reduced-price school meals – stressed that they and many of their peers in the public K-12 school system require plant-based meals for religious, medical, philosophical and other reasons. Despite this growing demand from students, there is an acute lack of eco-friendly foods in many schools, especially schools that serve students from underserved backgrounds. 

By meeting with federal policymakers who set school meal policies, members of the Youth Steering Committee hope to draw attention to the need for more plant-based meals as a means of alleviating food insecurity, improving public health, and mitigating the effects of climate change. 

“I joined the Youth Steering Committee because I believe that plant-based, climate-friendly foods are necessary in K-12 Schools. Reducing meat consumption can greatly positively impact the environment. As an environmentalist, I believe the earlier we start teaching kids about eco-friendliness and introducing them to plant-based foods, the more likely they are to help better our environment.” – Zenee Theophille, a 21-year-old graduate from Kennesaw State University 

“Growing up vegetarian and slowly transitioning into veganism, I didn’t always have access to plant-friendly meals in my schools. I am advocating for the implementation of plant-based meals in K-12 schools because I have first-hand experience with the lack of vegan meals in my school, and I want to make a difference so that no one else faces this problem”  – Aarush Goyal, a 16-year-old upcoming at junior at Bergen County Academies 

‘“Being able to meet with our representatives in Washington D.C. is exciting as it gives us the opportunity to advocate for ourselves and others who have been affected by the lack of plant-based meals in schools. I believe that implementing plant-based meals into school menus would benefit a wide variety of students with different beliefs and lifestyles. Additionally, I believe that this switch to more plant-forward school lunch menus would benefit the health of all students, including those who aren’t actively seeking plant-based lunches.” – Noah Gonzalez, a 16-year-old upcoming junior at Northwest Career and Technical Academy

“Through the Youth Steering Committee, I was able to explore ways in which I can stand up for myself, especially when it comes to having access to food that fits my plant-based diet, as well as my culture and the needs of the environment. Not only are we fighting for progress in school lunches, but also for the health of the public and the planet. With this opportunity to travel to D.C. and speak to those who represent us, I hope we can make a change that inspires future students and leads to more accessible plant-based school lunches.” – Guadalupe Gomez, a 20-year-old upcoming junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Growing up vegetarian, I struggled to access healthy and nutritious food options at my public school. Coming from a predominantly Hispanic and low-income city, this was especially troubling given that many students from my district relied on free school meals to get them through the day. I joined the YSC to make a meaningful difference in the way the public school nutrition services regard the health of students. Healthy meals should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their economic background. I believe that the key to a healthy lifestyle and a greener future is plant-based meals and with the help of the YSC, we are a step closer to that future.” – Emely Hernandez, a 17-year-old rising freshman at California State University, Long Beach

“Through my experience campaigning for a daily vegan option in my high school’s cafeteria, I learned about the challenges that schools face when trying to increase plant-based options. Funding, staffing, and infrastructure limitations make it hard for schools under the National School Lunch Program to change the meals they serve, even though many students want more plant-based meals. I knew that I wanted to continue this work on a federal level, which is why I joined the YSC to lobby for increasing plant-based accessibility in US public schools.” – Morgan Greenlaw, a 19-year-old rising sophomore at New York University

Media contact: Shaye Skiff, Friends of the Earth, 202-222-0723


The Plant Powered Youth Steering Committee, founded in 2022 by Chilis on Wheels and Friends of the Earth, is dedicated to empowering youth to design and execute campaigns to advance local federal policies that shift K-12 lunch menus toward more plant-based, climate-friendly foods. For more information, visit our website

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