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Vegetarian Options in School Meals

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin
Purpose: Beneficial Information
To: Child Nutrition Program Sponsors Number: NSD-SNP-17-2012
Attention: Food Service/Program Directors Date: November 2012
Subject: Vegetarian Options in School Meals
Reference: Assembly Concurrent Resolution 16: Nutrition: Vegetarian School Lunches (Nation), Resolution Chapter 62, Statutes of 2003

This Management Bulletin (MB) provides information on Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 16: Nutrition: Vegetarian School Lunches (Nation), Resolution Chapter 62, Statutes of 2003. It encourages School Food Authorities (SFA) to offer plant-centered vegetarian entrée options to meet the needs of their student population and provides information on helpful resources.

Lean and Green Kids sponsored ACR 16; calling for daily optional plant-centered vegetarian meals to improve student health, protect the environment, and meet the needs of students who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet for any reason. A broad spectrum of organizations endorsed the resolution, including the American Cancer Society, California State Parent Teachers Association, California School Boards Association, California Association of Student Councils, and the Animal Legislative Action Network. Specifically, ACR 16 urges the California Department of Education (CDE) to:

In November 2011, the CDE submitted a report to the Governor, the Legislature, and the Legislative Analyst’s office on efforts made to offer optional vegetarian school lunches. The report includes the full text of ACR 16, information on vegetarian diets and their health benefits, and statewide efforts to support plant-centered meal service and nutrition education in schools. The report also highlights school districts that offer plant-centered meals. The legislative report on ACR 16 is available on the CDE Legislation, Regulation, and Policies Web page at


Before SFAs can address the needs of their vegetarian students, it is important to know that there are many types of vegetarians, depending on what they exclude from their diet. They include:

Health Benefits and Incidence of Vegetarianism

Compared to non-vegetarians, vegetarians tend to have a healthier weight and lower risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other diseases. Vegetarian diets may include lower intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fiber, and phytochemicals, which may protect humans from cancers and other diseases. Therefore, providing vegetarian options can offer health benefits to all students.

According to a nationwide poll conducted in 2010, three percent of eight to eighteen year-old children and adolescents were vegetarian; close to one percent were vegan. While this data does not indicate a high level of need, SFAs should assess their own student population’s preferences for vegetarian meals in order to meet their needs and increase participation in their school lunch program.

The California Department of Education’s Commitment

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s Team California for Healthy Kids initiative promotes healthy eating and physical activity throughout the day, every day, in schools, before and after school agencies, early childhood programs, and communities. The campaign focuses on making healthy choices the easy choices. In alignment with this initiative, the CDE is committed to working closely with the SFAs to offer healthy plant-centered meals through:

Some of the steps the NSD has already taken include:


The attached list includes resources on vegetarian diets and recipes.


The NSD urges all SFAs to consider the needs of all students as they plan their menus, including those of plant-centered vegetarians. Recommended action steps are:

If you have any questions about this MB, please contact Mandeep Punia, Nutrition Education Consultant, by phone at 916-323-6037 or by e-mail at

Resources on Vegetarianism

Policy and Regulation
Nutrition and Vegetarianism
Online Training
Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Download Free Readers

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