Soon, students will have 42% more vegan food options

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Thousands of college students rely on meal plans and school cafeterias for sustenance, but for many, finding sustainable or plant-based options can be difficult. Today, leading food supplier Sodexo is restructuring the menu at universities across the United States, announcing plans to increase plant-based meal offerings by 42% by 2025. In partnership with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the restaurant giant aims to reduce its carbon footprint by creating a more sustainable business model.

Working with hundreds of colleges across the country, Sodexo’s sustainability campaign aims to reduce its carbon emissions by 34% by 2025. Through its college and university arm, Sodexo Campus, the major company has intent to reverse its harmful impact on the environment. In 2020, the company discovered that 70% of its carbon footprint could be attributed to food products of animal origin.

Sodexo’s plant-based campaign is driven by the general shift towards plant-based diets among young people. The Innova Health and Nutrition Survey revealed that almost 23 percent of 18-25 year olds follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. The survey also revealed that this number is on the rise, noting that almost a third of young consumers increased their plant-based protein intake in 2021.

“It is important for us to receive feedback directly from the customer because it helps us identify plant-based dishes that will become permanent elements of our menus,” said Sodexo Campus Director of Culinary Innovation and Chef Jennifer DiFrancesco in a statement.

Sodexo and The HSUS began working together nearly 15 years ago to improve the large restaurant company’s supply chain and grow its plant-based business. Today, this partnership has resulted in the Plant-Based Takeovers campaign, which offers plant-based training to Sodexo chefs. Plant-based takeovers allow students, faculty, and staff to sample new plant-based menu items and provide feedback.

“Any sustainability plan intended to create real change – not just greenwashing lingo – will focus on moving from a meat-based menu to a menu focused on plant-based entrees,” director of the Foodservice Innovation at HSUS Karla Dumas, RDN, said in a statement. “I am grateful to Sodexo for being an industry leader in committing to the tangible changes needed to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets. By developing a plant-based initiative that includes menu goals, recipe innovation and customer satisfaction, Sodexo has found the formula for success.

Herbal options for everyone

This announcement is just the latest development in Sodexo’s massive plant-based campaign. Last June, the company partnered with MorningStar Farms to bring Incogmeato vegan burgers to more than 3,000 hospitals and schools. Recognizing the growing demand for vegan foods, the company’s decision to serve schools makes plant-based protein options more accessible than ever.

Sodexo has also partnered with Israeli food tech company SavorEat to introduce a new plant-based technology straight out of science fiction: vegan burger cooking robots. The company announced that it plans to distribute the vegan robots to US colleges in 2022, giving students an accessible and inventive sustainable option. Sodexo aims to help SavorEats enter the US market, by commercializing the innovative technology.

School systems are introducing vegan meal programs

More and more school systems around the world have begun to implement plant-based meal programs, providing children with healthier, more sustainable meals that they would not otherwise have access to. New York Public School recently announced a campaign to put children’s health first, launching “Vegan Fridays” at all schools in the system. The meals program will provide 1 million college students with free plant-based meals, both providing healthier options and educating young children about vegan foods.

In Brazil, the municipality of Salvador has just launched a meal program that will provide 170,000 students with sustainable meals filled with plant-based foods. The government plans to provide 10 million plant-based meals to students a year while taking into account the needs, tastes and dietary traditions of students. By focusing on younger generations, these food programs will provide a better foundation for sustainable food in the future.

For more plant-based events, check out The Beet’s News articles.

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Tanya S. Norvell