Awareness campaign kicks off on Illinois law to provide plant-based meals



(The Center Square) – A public awareness campaign is under way to inform parents that Illinois is the only state with a law guaranteeing access to plant-based lunches in public schools.

The law, which went into effect August 2023, requires schools receiving federal reimbursement for lunch meals to serve plant-based meals with prior request.

Audrey Sanchez-Lawson, executive director of the public health advocacy group Balanced, said most parents are not aware of the law.

“Most people don’t know that it is even an option for them and there are lots of families and students who would participate in school lunch if they knew that was an option and we want to make sure that they have access to that information,” said Sanchez-Lawson.

Sanchez-Lawson adds that plant-based meals are culturally inclusive and safe for most common allergies, and studies have shown that even small changes toward healthier eating can benefit students’ behavior and improve their academic performance.

Parents and teens are required to submit a form through the “More Plants on Plates Illinois” website, and the school district takes care of the rest.

“Illinois’ commitment to providing plant-based meals in schools is about offering healthier choices for our children,” said state Rep. Cyril Nichols, D-Chicago, who spearheaded the legislation. “This new website makes it simple for parents to opt-in, and I hope other states will follow Illinois’ lead and encourage more healthy, sustainable options for school lunch to support our children’s health and wellbeing.”

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