Given the trend toward more plant-based eating among both kids and adults as a way of being more mindful of the health of both their health and that of the planet, management company Chartwells K12 recently introduced its newest culinary concept, Veg Out, at schools across the nation where it operates the meal program.
"Whether students are committed to eating plant-based at every meal or are just beginning to enjoy more fruits and vegetables on their plate, we're providing options for individual tastes across all ages," explains Chartwells K12 CEO Belinda Oakley. "With Veg Out, we're ensuring that kids who are vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian, or plant-centric can always find what they're looking for on our cafeteria menus."
In surveying school-aged students, the company has found one in three rated vegetarian or vegan options extremely or very important when choosing lunch at school, and 37% said they would eat school lunch more often if there were more vegetarian and vegan choices.
That data, along with research that consumer interest in plant-based diets is high, set the stage for the new program, which highlights the wide variety of plant-based options available on the lunch menu or at a dedicated food station. Whether students are interested in limiting their meat intake every day or occasionally, Veg Out offers appealing recipes and aligns with the priorities recently discussed at the recent White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases by 2030.
"With Gen Z students, it's all about eating better for the planet, so we are introducing even more vegetarian and vegan options with familiar foods that appeal to all ages," offers Chef Peter Gilhooly, vice president of culinary for Chartwells K12. "With Veg Out, students will love the variety of fresh, plant-forward entrees we've created, like a sun butter and banana quesadilla and butternut squash mac n' cheese."
To develop the Veg Out meals, Chartwells K12 partnered with the CIA Healthy Kids Collaborative and other industry leaders to create over 120 vegan and vegetarian options. Here are eight examples…