The need for plant-forward options in federal facilities has never been clearer: With research showing that sustainability and health are increasingly on the minds of consumers, government facilities are uniquely positioned to set an example by leading the way. That is why this past September, PBFA Foodservice Director, Hannah Lopez, teamed up with the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Friends of the Earth (FOE), Health Care Without Harm, and Martinsburg, Virginia Veterans Affairs to host a webinar detailing the need for plant-forward food service in federal facilities.
To watch the full webinar, click here to access a live recording.
Friends of the Earth Showcased the Climate-Friendly Case Study
The call was kicked off by Lisa Gonzales, Senior Food and Climate Policy Analyst at FOE, with a thorough review of the Climate-Friendly Case Study, a research report run through the Federal Good Food Group. The study pulled detailed insights on how efforts to expand plant-forward food options in the federal government food service space hold the potential to advance related initiatives of the Biden Administration. Among these initiatives includes a pledge made by President Biden at the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Health, and Nutrition: A promise to increase the availability of plant-based and vegetarian options in federal facilities.
Environmental Working Group’s Research Results Called for More Plant-Forward Food Options in Federal Facilities
Marking one year since Biden’s plant-forward pledge, the EWG team conducted their own survey, calling on nearly 600 federal facilities – including federal prisons, parks, hospitals, museums and government buildings – to audit the frequency at which plant-based dishes are served in each dining hall. The results were illuminating: 292 facilities offered a plant-based or vegetarian option at least three days a week; 236 facilities provided a plant-based or vegetarian option more than three days a week; and 69 locations only provided said options less than three days a week. While a substantial group of facilities are serving at least one plant-based dish a week (over 80%), insights revealed that 30 locations do not offer even a single plant-based or vegetarian entree option, disclosing a concerning gap in government efforts to employ all federal facilities with healthier food options.
Veterans Health Administration Announced New Healthy Diet Guidelines
Following the EWG team, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) kept the momentum high by announcing their plans to enhance both the well-being of their administration’s patient community and the sustainability of their operations. Central to this strategy, the VHA is thrilled to pilot their Healthy Diet Guidelines, a guiding document that advocates for the inclusion of plant-based proteins – including nuts, lentils, and vegetarian entrees – to the menus of all VHA dining facilities. The VHA’s National Nutrition and Food Service (NFS) entity, responsible for delivering over 39 million inpatient meals annually, collaborated on this comprehensive strategy, geared toward fostering partnerships between culinary professionals and clinical nutrition experts, in a robust effort to establish and embrace a ‘food forward’ philosophy organization-wide. This philosophy, which encourages the use of recipes and menus prepared in-house, hopes to strengthen relationships between culinary and clinical teams, train staff on healthy cooking practices, and ultimately elevate both patient health outcomes, operational sustainability, and the overall resiliency of this program.
PBFA’s Hannah Lopez Closed the Call With Key Foodservice Industry Insights and Trends
To close out the call, Hannah Lopez shared key insights into foodservice industry trends and consumer behaviors, pulled from the Plant Based Foods Association’s recently released State of the Marketplace: Food Service report – covering topics ranging from consumer preferences to operator mindsets. Much of the data from this report indicated a clear need for food service operators in all sectors to expand their plant-based options and meet growing consumer demand. For example, almost half of all consumers (43%) believe that plant-based menu options improve their restaurant experience, and a third of total consumers indicated that increasing their consumption of plant-based foods is predicated on availability in food service environments.
Armed with this data, we implore food service operators and federal institutions to take action: Offer greater variety, prioritize thoughtful menu labeling, and in doing so, create a well-rounded dining experience that includes diverse plant-based options and appeals to all patrons, not just those that identify as vegetarian or plant-based. Adopting plant-forward culinary philosophies in all federal facilities is no small feat, but research time and again shows not only the necessity, but moreover the urgency these changes require – whether it be in an effort to lower greenhouse gas emissions, or to realize consumers dietary needs and values, the call to promote plant-forward options in government institutions can marry both the needs of the consumer and the demands of the planet.
Interested in food service? If you’re a member of PBFA, make sure to schedule time with Hannah Lopez during her Office Hours for a complimentary consultation. If you’re a food service operator looking to increase your plant-based options, reach out to Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plant Forward Webinar Additional Resources:
- EWG’s Survey of Federal Facilities
- Food Service Guidelines | Nutrition | CDC
- Website for the Federal Good Food Purchasing Coalition
- FGFPC’s Climate-Friendly Food Service Case Study
- Practice Greenhealth’s resources – Plant-Forward Future
- Health Care Without Harm’s Health Care Culinary Contest
- Plant Based Food Association’s Industry Partner Portal Sign Up
- New York Times – How New York Hospitals Cut Emissions