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Shrinking the Carbon and Water Footprint of School Food

Shrinking the Carbon and Water Footprint of School Food

As schools across the nation grapple with how to feed kids healthier, more sustainable food on tight budgets, an inspiring story from Oakland Unified School District provides a roadmap for change. Friends of the Earth’s new case study shows how the district was able to significantly reduce its carbon and water footprint by replacing a share of its meat, poultry and cheese purchases with plant-based proteins. These actions also saved the district money and improved students’ access to healthful food.

Get the full reportexecutive summary
Read the press release
Read our blog on EcoWatch: A Triple Win for One of California’s Largest School Districts

Notable Press:

Civil Eats Article: Less Meat, Better Food, Happier Kids: Oakland Unified Reinvents its School Lunch

Yes Magazine: School District Cuts Carbon Footprint and Saves Money

Treehugger: What happens when a school district reduces meat and dairy consumption?

The Lunch Tray: School meals that are healthy for kids – and the environment

Green Schools National Network: Schools Cut Meat and Cheese, Serve up Big Wins for Kids and Climate; Greener School Lunches Can Help Fight Climate Change

Interview with Kari Hamerschlag, during the Healthy School Food Summit

Despite the growing trend towards serving more plant-based meals, shifting institutional food purchasing towards less and better meat has rarely been tapped as a climate mitigation strategy. We hope this report inspires more public institutions to track their animal foods purchases and serve less and better meat and more plant-based foods as a cost-effective way to achieve environmental and public health goals. We also hope policymakers will begin to consider meat reduction as a powerful, cost-effective climate mitigation strategy.

If institutions across the country made similar menu shifts to Oakland Unified School District, we could achieve dramatic reductions in carbon emissions and water use with no additional cost to schools. This is a rare silver bullet solution that can address many challenges simultaneously!

Create Climate-Conscious Menus


Learn More

  • Slide presentations from Northwest Forum on Healthy, Climate-Friendly Foodservice: Humane Society and Friends of the Earth
  • Webinar on Oakland Unified’s Healthy, Climate Friendly Food Shifts, hosted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
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