Plant-Based Meat is Coming to School Cafeterias Nationwide
Impossible Foods is running a campaign that aims to teach young Americans how to build better dietary habits and raise awareness of how food relates to the climate crisis, by launching its plant-based meat into school lunches nationwide. The food tech company earned a Child Nutrition [CN] label from the United States Department of Agriculture [USDA], allowing Impossible Burger products to be served at school cafeterias as options for students' breakfasts and lunches.
The certification will let the company introduce plant-based meat to children enrolled in K-12 schools across the United States. The vast majority of provided school meals include animal products, but Impossible Foods wants to change that norm to educate children early about the harms that come from factory farming and to help them learn about nutritional contents.
“The product met the rigorous requirements in large part because of soy, the main protein source in our product and the only plant protein that rivals beef from cows in terms of protein quality,” Senior Scientist in Nutrition, Health, & Food Safety at Impossible Foods Esther Park said. “Intake of soy among children and adolescents is not new; in fact, soy has served as a part of the traditional diet for kids in many Asian countries for centuries. The Impossible Burger represents a logical next step for schools looking to incorporate more plant-based options that meet nutritional needs of school-aged children.”
Impossible Foods will launch its plant-based school lunch options this month. The initial school districts that plan to feature the plant-based options include Palo Alto Unified School District [Palo Alto, CA], Aberdeen School DIstrict [Aberdeen, WA], Union City Public Schools [Union City, OK], Deer Creek Public Schools [Deer Creek, OK]. The company plans to work with these school districts to create dishes that will encourage students to try plant-based meats. Some of the proposed concepts will be Impossible Street Tacos, Impossible Frito Pie, and Spaghetti with Impossible Meat Sauce. The pilot program will poll students to better adapt the plant-based offerings.
The company also commissioned a report that surveyed 1,200 children between the ages of five and 18 about their stance and understanding about climate change, food choices, and the relationship between the two. The “Kids Rule” report aimed to inform Impossible Foods about just how much today’s youth is tuned into environmental concerns. The report showed that 80 percent of children were aware of climate change with increasing awareness coinciding with age and that nine out of 10 children believe that taking action to prevent climate change is important to them.
“Our research shows that kids care about climate change, and they want to do something about it,” Impossible Foods said in its report. “But they’re still far more likely to take actions like recycling or limiting food waste than they are to stop eating meat, even when they’re educated about climate change contributors. That’s why it’s so important to give them an easy solution that they resonate with. The Impossible Burger taps into two key needs for kids: the desire to eat something tasty, and the urge to feel like they are making a difference – in this case, saving the world.”
The surveyed children also were asked if they thought they had the power to take climate action and 73 percent responded that they believed they do. However, 99 percent of children responded that they ate meat at least once per month and 97 percent reported that they consumed meat once per week. Impossible Foods hopes that by introducing kids to plant-based meats at a young age, they can also introduce kids to the benefits of adopting plant-based eating habits. By highlighting the benefits of a meatless diet, children will be introduced to global issues and ways to be involved at an early age.