Plant-based meal options are soon to be on the menu for various schools throughout the state. A bill was recently signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker that will bring plant-based lunch options to nearly two million students next year. With the new law in place, students will be able to request a vegan meal option that meets federal nutrition standards.
“Whether a student’s dietary needs are rooted in religious, health-related or other, personal reasons, offering a plant-based meal option would satisfy a variety of requirements,” Senator, David Koehler shared in a statement.
According to VegNews, the federal school meal program does not financially support meals that do not include milk. This makes it extremely difficult for school districts and state legislations to adopt plant-based initiatives due to funding concerns. The Healthy Future Students and Earth Act that was proposed in 2021, made it easier for plant-based meal options to be added to school lunch menus than ever before. This act incentivizes schools to serve planet-friendly, and culturally appropriate plant-based meals.
Before this initiative was put into place, the King Charter school in Florida tried to adopt an entirely vegan menu in 2019. Due to the lack of eligibility for meal reimbursements from the federal government, the plans were halted. Since then, a few schools in New York have been successful with "vegan Fridays," offering a plant-based meal option just once a week.
A plant-based meal option will be provided to Illinois students during each school lunch period starting in August of 2023.