California’s Oakland School District recently partnered with environmental protection group Friends of the Earth (FOE) to make its lunch menus more environmentally friendly. FOE presented the school district with a proposal that outlined the high carbon footprint of animal products as compared to that of more environmentally friendly plant-based foods. The school district adopted FOE’s suggested menu changes, replacing many meat and cheese items with vegan foods. “The students’ lunches went from beef hot dogs and pepperoni pizzas,” media outlet The Daily Caller reports, “to vegan tofu stir-fry and vegan tostadas.” The menu shift, according to FOE, reduced the school district’s carbon footprint by 14 percent—which, if plugged into the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) official calculator, is equivalent to removing 127 cars from the road for one year. “While our study focused on school food,” FOE’s deputy director of food and technology Kari Hamerschlag said, “it’s clear that meat and cheese reduction is a powerful climate mitigation strategy for all restaurants and institutions that want to reduce their environmental impact.” According to FOE, if every school district in the country followed Oakland’s example, carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by the equivalent of taking 150,000 cars of the road.
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