Four cities in Brazil have pledged to transition all of the meals served at its public school cafeterias to 100 percent plant-based by the end of 2019.
Four cities in Brazil have pledged to transition all of the meals served at its public school cafeterias to 100 percent plant-based by the end of 2019, with the mission of reducing the cities’ environmental footprint (especially water consumption), aiding local produce farmers and fostering humane and healthy eating habits for students.
The cities of Serrinha, Barroca, Teofilandia and Biritinga in the northeastern state of Bahia will soon be home to the world’s first school districts to make such a commitment.
Escola Sustentável leader Leticia Baird, the Brazilian public prosecutor for the environment in the state of Bahia said: “Providing our school districts with plant-based meals will help save environmental and public financial resources, allow for a future of healthy adults, and build a fair world for the animals.”
The “Escola Sustentável” (Sustainable School) project—spearheaded by Humane Society International (HSI) in Brazil and the local Public Prosecutor Office—covers 30,000 students and will impact more than 23 million meals a year. It will reduce meat, dairy and egg consumption by an estimated 25 percent per semester.
Not only will the shift towards plant-based eating benefit the health and wellbeing of the students, it will also have a profound effect on the environment too.
In 2014, the Brazilian Ministry of Health’s dietary guidelines stated: “Opting to consume various types of plant-based foods and a limited consumption of animal products indirectly results in a food system that is more just and less stressful on the environment, animals and biodiversity in general.”
According to HSI: “Escola Sustentável’s mission is to improve student health, reduce the cities’ environmental footprint (especially water consumption), and empower local farmers who will be able to supply the school districts with plant-based foods.”
The plant-based program kicked off last week and included four days of plant-based culinary training for the cities’ school cooks, led by HSI’s chef André Vieland. The vegan cook shared cost-effective and nutritious recipes made with accessible, locally sourced ingredients.
Under the new, two-year experimental program, lunches will consist of hearty, filling meals that include ingredients soy, rice milk, peanut butter (instead of butter), vegetables, root vegetables, grains, and whole-wheat bread to ensure that students are given optimum nutrition to help them develop and grow.
Families who do not agree with the newly imposed diet can send their students to school with packed lunches from home.
Definitive implementation of the program will depend on health outcomes of the students after the trial period, according to Brazillian publication Correio.
Students at the schools partaking in the trial will undergo periodic tests that count blood, ferritin, vitamin B12, total cholesterol, triglycerides and blood glucose levels. Weight, height and body composition will also be measured to ensure that the students are thriving on a plant-based diet, and are not lacking in any nutrients.
“We applaud the cities of Serrinha, Barroca, Teofilandia, and Biritinga for becoming the world’s first school districts to commit to going 100 percent plant-based,” Sandra Lopes, food policy manager for HSI in Brazil, said in a statement.
“It’s an honor to have worked with city authorities, nutritionists and school cooks on the adoption and implementation of this initiative, and we’re excited to continue working closely with them to ensure the success of this program.”