Status (4/13/21): This bill has been chaptered on 09/20/19, so is now inactive. It was last amended on 06/27/19.

PBFA is a proud supporter of California Assembly Members Nazarian, Kalra, and Quirk-Silva’s bill, AB 558 – known as the California Climate-Friendly Food Program. This bill would allow schools to be eligible to receive additional state funding for serving a plant-based entrée and plant-based milk. It would also provide staff training and other support to help schools serve more plant-based meals.

If passed, this legislation will deliver major benefits for student health, and would be a massive first step in ensuring every child has access to foods that meet leading public health guidance. This means eating more plant-based foods and less processed meat, such as the cheeseburgers, dairy and meat pizzas, chicken nuggets, and hotdogs currently found on lunch trays across the country.

As the letter we proudly signed notes, improving access to plant-based foods is incredibly important to address equity and racial health disparities, especially among California’s low-income children- who are disproportionately Black and brown- that rely on school meals as a primary source of nutrition.

In California, nearly 20% of Black and Latinx adolescents experience obesity, at a rate three times higher than their white classmates. School lunch is a crucial point of intervention to mitigate the racial health disparities that were laid bare by COVID-19. It is particularly important that schools offer plant-based entrée and milk options for students who are unable to process lactose. The National Institutes of Health estimates that 60-80% of African Americans and 50-80% of Hispanic people are unable to process lactose. As California’s public schools increasingly serve a racially and ethnically diverse population, we must ensure every student has access to culturally and nutritionally appropriate meals.

Plant-based foods are increasingly in demand for health, environmental, cultural, and ethical reasons, but schools often have difficultly providing these options to students due to financial barriers, as animal-based products are subsidized by the government relative to plant-based options. This bill would provide a small additional reimbursement for these foods, helping empower schools across California to provide children with access to healthier, plant-based meals.

This bill goes hand-in-hand with other efforts PBFA has underway to increase access to healthy, plant-based meals, and we look forward to seeing California, and the rest of the country, grow plant-based!