Invest in Kids’ Health with Plant-Based School Lunches

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plant based school lunchesThis week, 100 health organizations and experts joined together to share an important message with lawmakers: Investing in plant-based school lunches will save lives and billions of dollars in health care costs.

The group wrote a letter in support of AB 479, a California bill introduced by Assembly member Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys), which would incentivize schools that add plant-based entreés and plant milks to their menus. The bill recently passed through the California Assembly Education Committee with a 5-0 vote, and it’s now in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where committee members are weighing the costs of the bill.

The letter makes it clear that giving students greater access to healthy school meals would have long-term financial benefits. In fact, chronic diseases related to diet and lifestyle now account for 7 in 10 U.S. deaths and a majority of our $3.5 trillion health care budget. A recent report from Oxford estimates that global meat consumption will result in $285 billion in health care costs and 2.4 million deaths. Another report finds that if current health trends related to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease continue, today’s generation of children will be the first to live shorter lives than their parents.

It’s time to invest in the health of our children. AB 479 can help do that. Read the full letter to the Assembly Appropriations Committee:

Dear Chairs Ting, Mitchell, McCarty, and Roth,

We, the undersigned public health, medical, and nutrition organizations and experts, strongly support AB 479 and support Assemblymember Nazarian’s budget ask of $4.7 million to the Department of Education to incentivize healthy, climate-friendly meals in California’s public schools, as envisioned by AB 479. By investing in the health of California’s children today, this bill can help save lives and dramatically reduce future health care costs.

Eating unhealthful food is not only costly to our individual health, but it also places undue burden on our statewide and federal health care systems. In fact, chronic diseases related to our diet and lifestyle now account for 7 in 10 U.S. deaths. Ninety percent of our annual $3.5 trillion health care expenses are for people with at least one chronic health condition. High meat consumption, especially red and processed meat, has been linked to many of our deadliest – and most costly – diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and certain forms of cancer.

There is an overwhelming public health consensus on the need to reduce consumption of processed and red meat in favor of more plant-based foods. In fact, the U.S. government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that teenage boys and men reduce their meat consumption. It also found that vegetarian and low-meat Mediterranean diets are “associated with reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.”

Researchers from the University of Oxford estimate that in 2020, current global meat consumption rates will result in a staggering $285 billion in health care costs and 2.4 million deaths and that even modest reductions in meat consumption could help prevent 220,000 deaths and decrease health care costs by $41 billion. Providing incentives to encourage plant-based diets could produce even bigger benefits. A recent Tufts University study showed that we can generate better health outcomes and enormous savings by subsidizing healthy, plant-based foods.

Unfortunately, projections show that if we fail to shift our dietary patterns, chronic disease rates and health care spending will continue to soar. In fact, today’s generation of children is the first expected to live shorter lives than their parents. A key problem is that children’s diets are lacking in the most protective foods. According to the CDC, just 1 in 10 U.S. children eat enough vegetables. In California, 70 percent of adolescents fall short on fruits and vegetables. The CDC cites evidence showing that students whose diets lack important nutrients, including those found in nutrient-dense, plant-based meals, have “lower grades and higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness.” Inadequate nutrient intake and the resulting decrease in academic achievement create a lasting burden on the vitality of communities at large.

We urgently ask for your support of AB 479 to incentivize greater consumption of plant-based foods. By investing an estimated $5 million to fund plant-based meals in schools, test recipes, and train staff to prepare healthy food, we will improve kids’ health, save millions of health care dollars in the long run, and promote the future health of our state.



Center for Climate Change and Health, Linda Rudolph, Director
Center for Nutrition Studies, Sarah Johnson, Director of Content & Digital Marketing
Howard Memorial Hospital, Jason Wells, President
Robin Withrow-Wong, M.S., CEO of VegHead Speaks
Top Performance Consulting, Anna Weltman, Coach
UDW/AFSCME Local 3930, Kristina Bas Hamilton, Legislative Director
Alisa Daskarolis, President, EndoHealing Family Foods
Arnold Gorske, CEO and Editor at HEPFDC
Christine Bou Sleiman, R.D. and Owner, HealthySelfie, LLC
Neal Barnard, M.D., President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine


Alexandra Mark, R.D.
Andrew Klonecke, Physician
Anitha Kankar, M.D.
Anna Herby, R.D., C.D.E.
Beth Dameral, R.N.
Bob Rosenburg, Board Chair, OnePercent for Education
Bruce Block, M.D., Pediatrician, Palo Alto Medical Foundation
Casey Schirmer, M.D., PAMF Pediatrics
Charlea Massion, M.D., Family Physician, Dominican Hospital, Santa Cruz, CA
Cherie Leonard, Educator, CoachMaster Seminars
Cheryl Hoffman, M.D., Medical Director, UCLA
Christine Bou Sleiman, R.D., and Owner, HealthySelfie, LLC
Christine Rada, Family Nurse Practitioner
Christine Varner, R.N., B.S.N., P.H.N., Occupational Health Nurse, Capitol Health Services
Christy Dunn, Registered Nurse, UC Davis Medical Center
Cindy Pu, R.N.
Courtney Barry, Family Nurse Practitioner
Cristina Macedo, M.S.W., Women and Infants MHU Coordinator
Dana Armstrong, R.D.
Dani Wenger, Student, UCLA
Daniel Marcus, M.D., Physician, Palo Alto Medical Foundation
David Hjerpe, Physician
Debra Shapiro, M.D., Staff Physician, Genentech Health Center and Private Health Coach, Premise Health
Donnita Talavera, Chief Patient Advocate
Dr. Joseph Crabtree, Psychiatrist
Dr. Judy Bertelsen
Dr. Shivarama Bhat
Earl Johnson, President, Progress Management Inc.
Edwin Chun, Doctor of Chiropractic
Elaine Taylor, R.N.
Elian Paiuk, M.D.
Emily Mitchell, R.D.
Eury Ramos, Counselor
Ingrid Lopes, D.O., Associate Professor
Jackie Busse, M.D., Palo Alto Medical Foundation
Jackie Schuck, R.N.
Jacqueline Thompson, R.D., C.D.E., at Healthy Advantage
Jane Williams, M.D.
Jeanne Gallagher, M.D., Pediatrician and Health Care Administrator, Palo Alto Medical Foundation
Jeannie Norton, Registered Nurse, Chico Unified School District and CSU Chico
Jennifer Nemeth, R.N.
Jennifer Vitale, R.N.
Jina Shah, M.D., M.P.H., Family doctor, One Medical
Jody Kass, Executive Director at PlantPure Communities
Johaan Ryberg, Teacher, Soquel Union Elementary School District
John Millington, M.D., at Southern California Wound Healing Center
John Sekerka, R.D.
John Westerdahl, R.D.N.
Kami Anderson, M.D.
Karen Nash, R.N.
Kathleen Kastner, Exercise Physiologist, M.S., at PlantDiego
Kathrin Sidell, M.D., Ph.D., physician, Palo Alto Medical Foundation
Katrice Rivera, R.N.
Kayce Ryberg, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Sutter Health
Kristine McLain, Registered Nurse, Cardiology, Kaiser Permanente
Leigh Mueller Langley, Pediatrician, PAFMG
Ligia Giese, M.D., Kaiser Permanente
Linda Balazsy, Program Manager, Healthcare Compliance
Liz Gary, Plant Based Foods Educator, New Options Food Group
Maria Zepeda, Nurse
Matthew Kesler, Pediatrician, Kaiser Permanente
Matthew Ruscigno, M.P.H., R.D.
Maureen Craig, Clinical Nurse Specialist – Nephrology, UC Davis Medical Center
Meghan Lowery, Director, The Greenbaum Foundation
Michael Blair, Executive Director, Neighborhood Innovation
Michelle Ernaga, R.D., M.P.H., Los Angeles Unified School District
Nancee P., R.D.
Nancy Smith, R.N.
Noemi Vazquez, M.D.
Olga B Howell, R.N., B.S.N., Retired, formerly Cayuga Medical Center
Patricia Simpson, Emergency Physician
Paul Ware, M.D., Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group
Praveena Kumar, R.D.
Rebecca Muradian, R.N.
Renee Rodriguez, Pediatric Cardiologist, Palo Alto Medical Foundation – Sutter Health
Rinaldo Brutoco, CEO, ShangriLa Group
Robert Daroff, M.D., Professor in Psychiatry
Sarah Maufe, M.D., Pediatrician, PAMF
Scott Iwamura, R.D.
Siobhan Gogan, M.D.
Susan Borba, M.D., Pediatrician, Palo Alto Medical Foundation
Sylvie Rockel, project manager
Tammy Renault, M.P.H., Walden University
Tanya Nauenberg, Pediatrician, PAMF
Teresa Ewin, R.N.
Tracy Childs, director of PlantDiego
Wil Wong, Physician, TPMG

Photo from here, with thanks.

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