Over the course of this semester I have explored in depth climate change caused by animal agriculture. I started this process with an established awareness and concern about the environmental impacts of raising animals as livestock and wanted to further explore the extent of this issue and understand it with the intention of proposing solutions.
My greatest pull to this issue stems from learning truly how great of an issue it is. Animal agriculture is responsible for over 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, 150 million gallons of methane per day, 34-76 trillion gallons of water annually, and uses 45% of the earth’s total land. In learning about these impacts I have made the choice in my own life to eliminate my consumption of meat and reduce consumption of other animal products. The individual has great capability. As consumers we have the power to create a change in our food system for the better. Any form of reduction is effective and I strongly encourage everyone to consider reducing their consumption of animal products for the planet. This being said, action needs to be taken beyond the individual. A systematic change is necessary to accomplish great change.
I propose a policy that introduces plant-based foods into public school systems.
My goal is for plant-based meals to be offered at public school cafeterias at no additional cost to the student beyond what would be charged for a comparable non-plant-based food option.
My inspiration for this campaign was the The “Escola Sustentavel” (Sustainable School) Project. This project started with four cities in Bahia, Brazil pledging to transition all of the meals served at its public schools to 100% plant-based by the end of 2019. These will be the first schools in the world to have completely plant based cafeterias. These changes were encouraged by the communities in these cities and were made possible by a partnership between the Human Society International in Brazil and the local Public Prosecutor Office.
The changes in meals have been successful and greatly reduced the cities’ overall consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs. A Friends of the Earth (FOE) study found that if every school district in the U.S. adopted this type of food policy, it would be equivalent to taking “150,000 cars off the road every year.”
Children and students. One of the greatest barriers to decreasing animal consumption is that animal consumption is a social norm and ingrained in our food system. By introducing plant based foods to the younger generations, we can create a new social norm and societal demand for plant based foods.
Most schools that are switching over to plant-based meals are due to a demand for these changes in that school district. Not all school districts and communities have a desire for this kind of policy. A lack of demand may be met with unwanted change. As of today, healthier food is unfamiliar.
Tools for Success
Education and marketing are necessary to normalize plant-based foods. This policy also comes with great health benefits which can be used as an effective tool for creating demand. Implementing this policy slowly but steadily is vital for effective change. Tracking the purchasing and consumption of newly offered plant-based options is necessary to quantify and measure success.