Canadian universities aim to boost plant-based options on menus in 2024 to meet student demand

Leila Ahouman, CBC News, December 26, 2023

Food display with menu icons at Western University.
Universities across the country are introducing more plant-based food in their dining halls, something institutions say is an ongoing demand from students for more variety and a larger push for more sustainable practices. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Before he went to Western University, Parum Patel’s family warned him that vegetarian food on campus would be hard to find. But now, Patel says, all he has to do is walk into one the school’s seven dining halls.

At the university in London, Ont., vegan chicken fingers, sweet potato stew and chili tofu are just a few of the options on the menu.

“It’s nice not to have to resort to cold or pre-made foods all the time. There are always options for warm, fresh food,” said Patel, a first-year student.

Universities across the country are introducing more plant-based food in their dining halls, something institutions say is an ongoing demand from students for more variety and a larger push for more sustainable practices.

At Western, students are the driving force behind the increase in vegan and vegetarian meals. The university set a goal of having a 40 per cent plant-based menu at all dining halls by the new year, but it hit the target — and at some points even surpassed it — this year. A fully vegan outlet will open in 2024, and the school wants to reach a 50 per cent target in 2025.

Colin Porter, director of hospitality services at Western, said when students initially complained about the lack of nutritious and healthy options, the school had to “take responsibility and align with sustainability values.”

Chefs from Ontario universities train to cater to student demands for plant-based foods

The push to have more plant-based menus on campuses is happening across the country. At the University of British Columbia, 55 per cent of the food in dining halls is plant-based, and the Vancouver school hopes to reach a goal of 80 per cent by 2025. Also that year, Concordia University in Montreal plans to reduce its purchase of meat, dairy and eggs by 30 per cent.

Similarly, Dalhousie University in Halifax aims to offer a menu with at least 50 per cent plant-based food options by 2030. And while plant-based options represented less than half of the University of Toronto’s food services offerings two years ago, they now account for 61 per cent.

David Speight, the executive chef and culinary director of food services at UBC, explains how 55 per cent of the university’s menu is plant-based — and what this represents for universities in Canada….

[… Read more at CBC News ]


 

UC Berkeley commits to having 50% of its entrees be plant-based by 2027

Plant based menus
The school recently sampled a Fall Grain Salad Stuffed Acorn Squash with students. | Photo courtesy of the Humane Society of the U.S.

Benita Gingerella, FoodService Director, December 12, 2023

The University of California Berkeley has announced a commitment to have at least 50% of the entrees served in its dining commons be plant-based by 2027.

The school is teaming up with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to help them reach their goal.

To kick off of the partnership, UC Berkeley and HSUS hosted a plant-based takeover at Crossroads, the school’s largest dining commons. During the event, students sampled a plant-based Fall Grain Salad Stuffed Acorn Squash and provided their thoughts on the menu item. They also shared their feedback on what they would like to see on menus going forward.

Over the next several semesters, HSUS will also be offering a variety of culinary trainings, marketing and other resources to aid UC Berkeley as it makes the transition.

“We’re excited to join this initiative and showcase our plant-based options,” said Christopher R. Henning, executive director for Berkeley Dining, in a statement. “Berkeley Dining has a strong commitment to offering our students healthy and nutritious plant-based options, as well as engaging with our students in the process.”

UC Berkeley is the first school in the University of California system to partner with HSUS and commit to serving more plant-based items on campus.

Many other colleges and foodservice providers have also partnered with HSUS in the past. Penn State is currently working with the organization to make 35% of its entrees served on campus be plant-based by 2025. Elior, Aramark, Sodexo and Whitsons Culinary Group have all partnered with HSUS to expand their plant-based options.

[… Read more at FoodService Director ]


 

Eat Less Meat Is Message for Rich World in Food’s First Net Zero Plan

  • UN’s FAO is set to publish plan for food’s climate transition
  • Food expected to take more focus at COP28 summit in Dubai

Agnieszka de Sousa, Bloomberg, Nov. 25, 2023

The world’s most-developed nations will be told to curb their excessive appetite for meat as part of the first comprehensive plan to bring the global agrifood industry into line with the Paris climate agreement.

The global food systems’ road map to 1.5C is expected to be published by the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization during the COP28 summit next month. Nations that over-consume meat will be advised to limit their intake, while developing countries — where under-consumption of meat adds to a prevalent nutrition challenge — will need to improve their livestock farming, according to the FAO.

From farm to fork, food systems account for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions and much of that footprint is linked to livestock farming — a major source of methane, deforestation and biodiversity loss. Although non-binding, the FAO’s plan is expected to inform policy and investment decisions and give a push to the food industry’s climate transition which has lagged other sectors in commitments.

The guidance on meat is intended to send a clear message to governments. But politicians in richer nations typically shy away from policies aimed at influencing consumer behavior, especially where it involves cutting consumption of everyday items.

“Livestock is politically sensitive, but we need to deal with sensitive issues to solve the problem,” said Dhanush Dinesh, the founder of Clim-Eat, which works to accelerate climate action in food systems. “If we don’t tackle the livestock problem, we are not going to solve climate change. The key problem is overconsumption.” …

[… Read more at Bloomberg ]


UN Food & Agriculture Organization Publishes Roadmap to Sustainable Food Systems

The FAO has published the first iteration of its roadmap to align agri-food systems with 1.5°C and end hunger, with a full report expected to follow in the coming days. It comes after the FAIRR Initiative coordinated a statement signed by investors who represent $18 trillion, calling for a roadmap towards a resilient and sustainable food system.

The initial report outlines ten measurable, timebound targets, covering issues such as crops, soil, and forests. According to FAIRR, there is not yet enough information to assess whether the targets are sufficient; the organization has praised the discussion of methane reduction and shifting subsidies, but notes that the roadmap may not go far enough in protecting nature and biodiversity.

“We will look back at COP28 as the turning point for a seismic shift in agri-food policy and investment in the decade ahead,” said Jeremy Coller, chair and founder of FAIRR. “COP28 started with the Emirates Declaration which commits more than 150 countries to include food and agriculture in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), but it is critically important that this COP ends with food and agriculture being accounted for in the Global Stocktake (GST).”

[text source extract: VegconomistDec. 12, 2023]


 

Study following twins finds those on plant-based diets were biologically younger and healthier in just 8 weeks


In a recent study by Stanford University examining 22 sets of identical twins, researchers found that adopting a plant-based diet for just eight weeks resulted in improved health. Participants who followed plant-based diets experienced improved heart health, significant weight loss, and signs of slower aging based on health markers, in comparison to their twins who continued consuming animal products. These findings suggest that incorporating more plant-based foods, such as vegetables, beans, whole grains, and nuts, into one’s diet can be a key strategy for achieving and maintaining optimal health.

Source: Landry MJ, Ward CP, Cunanan KM, et al. Cardiometabolic Effects of Omnivorous vs Vegan Diets in Identical Twins: A Randomized Clinical TrialJAMA Netw Open. 2023.


 

A Meatless Diet Is Better for You—And the Planet

Scientific American, July 14, 2023

A Meatless Diet Is Better for You--And the Planet
Mezze platter. Credit: rebeccafondren/Getty Images

by Sarah C. Hull, assistant professor of medicine, and associate director of the Program for Biomedical Ethics, Yale School of Medicine.

The idea that we need to eat meat to get enough protein and iron, a false assumption of some Paleo diet acolytes, is a common misconception. It ignores the abundance of protein and iron in many plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds and legumes. Similarly, consuming dairy is not necessary to obtain adequate dietary calcium, as this mineral is abundant in soy, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, grains, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables.

Likewise, while we typically associate omega-3 fatty acids with fish, fish themselves incorporate these into their tissue by eating algae and seaweed, which we can consume directly without the concerns of exposure to accumulated mercury and microplastics in fish flesh. Indeed, a whole-food, plant-based diet can provide all essential nutrients except for vitamin B12, which is made by bacteria in soil and ingested by animals, thereby incorporated into their tissue, milk, and eggs. While modern sanitation allows humans to consume clean produce uncontaminated by dirt or feces, we can easily and cheaply obtain oral B12 supplements.

Furthermore, significantly reducing our consumption of meat would carry vast benefits. As cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death around the world, poor diet has now surpassed tobacco smoking as the top risk factor for death in the U.S, where life expectancy has now stagnated, in large part because of a plateau in mortality from cardiovascular disease. Eating highly processed foods and red meat has been repeatedly demonstrated to promote underlying mechanisms of cancer and cardiovascular disease, such as inflammation and damage to the lining of blood vessels.

Mounting evidence points to the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet. A meta-analysis of scientific studies from 2017 found that a vegetarian diet is associated with a 25 percent relative risk reduction for coronary heart disease and an 8 percent relative risk reduction for cancer, with a vegan diet conferring a 15 percent relative risk reduction for cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified processed meat as carcinogenic, and (unprocessed) red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans. Finally, randomized controlled trials have also demonstrated the benefits of a Mediterranean diet (essentially a whole-food, plant-predominant diet) in both the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, with enhanced benefits from greater adherence to a provegetarian (more plant-based) dietary pattern.

In addition to harming ourselves, eating meat harms others. Factory farming practices often entail unspeakable cruelty to animals, and working conditions for human laborers are often unsafe and inhumane as well. Overcrowding of livestock and workers promotes the spread of disease among both people and animals, putting us all at risk for future pandemics. The overuse of “routine” antibiotics to accelerate animal growth and preemptively treat the infections anticipated as a result of living in unclean and overcrowded conditions can promote antibiotic resistance. Finally, meat consumption contributes to climate change though deforestation and methane emissions. Food systems make up a third of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity, and animal-based foods contribute twice the emissionsof plant-based foods. Switching from the typical Western diet to a vegetarian diet can reduce one’s personal dietary carbon emissions by 30 percent; a strict vegan diet can reduce them by as much as 85 percent….

[… Read more at Scientific American]


 

Hundreds of academics call for 100% plant-based meals at UK universities

Damian Carrington, The Guardian, Sept. 4, 2023

fight the climate crisis, saying that the institutions have “for centuries, been shining lights of intellectual, moral, and scientific progress”.

The open letter, organised by the student-led Plant-Based Universities campaign, likened the move to meat-free food to the fossil fuel divestment to which 101 UK universities have already committed.

Cutting meat consumption in rich nations is vital to tackling the climate crisis, with scientists saying it is the single biggest way for people to reduce their impact on the planet.

The letter, sent to UK university vice-chancellors, catering managers, and student union presidents, said: “We are acutely aware – as you must be too – of the climate and ecological crises; not only this but we are also mindful that animal farming and fishing are leading drivers of them.

“Most universities have declared a climate emergency, with many taking steps such as fossil fuel divestment. [Students] deserve to know that their universities are actively working to create a future for them to graduate into.”….

The Plant-Based Universities campaign is active in more than 50 universities. To date, the student unions’ at Birmingham, University College London, Stirling, and Queen Mary universities have voted to phase in 100% plant-based menus.

Related votes also have passed at Cambridge, Kent and London Metropolitan universities. Votes at Edinburgh and Warwick universities did not pass. The University of Cambridge removed beef and lamb from the menus of its 14 catering outlets in 2016, “dramatically reducing food-related carbon emissions”.

Chris Packham said: “The student campaigners of Plant-Based Universities are making incredible changes in their institutions and it’s only right to see hundreds of academics stepping up to support them.”

In 2020, A powerful coalition of the UK’s health professions said the climate crisis could not be solved without action to cut the consumption of high-emission food such as red meat, and that sustainable diets were healthier.

Public sector caterers serving billions of meals a year in schools, universities, hospitals and care homes also pledged in 2020 to cut the amount of meat they serve by 20%. In 2021, a government-commissioned national food strategyrecommended cutting meat consumption by nearly a third.

[… Read more at The Guardian]


 

These 2 College Cafés Just Made Oat Milk the Default

Dairy is no longer the default at these on-campus cafés, following a larger oat milk trend at coffee chains such as Blue Bottle and Stumptown.

Jamie Evan Bichelman, VegNews, April 25, 2023
Gen Z is leading a transcendent shift in plant-based food consumption. This is particularly evident in the plant-based milk category where the demographic consumes five times more than any prior generation. This means that in college, Zoomers are reaching for anything but cow’s milk for their coffee. So how are campuses keeping up?

At the University of San Diego, award-winning coffeehouse Aromas is now the first known on-campus café in the country to offer oat milk by default.

“The ‘Oat Milk Initiative’ was one of the winning ideas from the 2021 Changemaker Challenge, a social innovation competition focused on ways to make our campus more sustainable and inclusive,” Juan Carlos Rivas, PhD, Director of Social Change and Student Engagement for the Changemaker HUB at USD, tells VegNews…

[… Read more at VegNews]


 

Vegan diet massively cuts environmental damage, study shows

Detailed analysis finds plant diets lead to 75% less climate-heating emissions, water pollution and land use than meat-rich ones

Damian Carrington, The GuardianJuly 20, 2023

Eating a vegan diet massively reduces the damage to the environment caused by food production, the most comprehensive analysis to date has concluded.

The research showed that vegan diets resulted in 75% less climate-heating emissions, water pollution and land use than diets in which more than 100g of meat a day was eaten. Vegan diets also cut the destruction of wildlife by 66% and water use by 54%, the study found.

The heavy impact of meat and dairy on the planet is well known, and people in rich nations will have to slash their meat consumption in order to end the climate crisis. But previous studies have used model diets and average values for the impact of each food type.

In contrast, the new study analysed the real diets of 55,000 people in the UK. It also used data from 38,000 farms in 119 countries to account for differences in the impact of particular foods that are produced in different ways and places. This significantly strengthens confidence in the conclusions.

However, it turned out that what was eaten was far more important in terms of environmental impacts than where and how it was produced. Previous research has shown that even the lowest-impact meat – organic pork – is responsible for eight times more climate damage than the highest-impact plant, oilseed.

The researchers said the UK should introduce policies to help people reduce the amount of meat they eat in order to meet the nation’s climate targets. Ministers have repeatedly said they will not tell people what to consume, despite the precedent of, for example, taxes on high-sugar drinks.

Prof Peter Scarborough at Oxford University, who led the research, published in the journal Nature Food, said: “Our dietary choices have a big impact on the planet. Cutting down the amount of meat and dairy in your diet can make a big difference to your dietary footprint.”

The global food system has a huge impact on the planet, emitting a third of the total greenhouse gas emissions driving global heating. It also uses 70% of the world’s freshwater and causes 80% of river and lake pollution. About 75% of the Earth’s land is used by humans, largely for farming, and the destruction of forests is the major cause of the huge losses in biodiversity.

Prof Neil Ward at the University of East Anglia said: “This is a significant set of findings. It scientifically reinforces the point made by the Climate Change Committee and the National Food Strategy over recent years that dietary shifts away from animal-based foods can make a major contribution to reducing the UK’s environmental footprint.”…

[… Read more at The Guardian]


See original study: Scarborough et al, “Vegans, vegetarians, fish-eaters and meat-eaters in the UK show discrepant environmental impacts,” Nature Food 4 (565–574), 2023

What To Consider When Asking Institutions To Shift How They Serve Food

A guest blog from Greener By Default explores and explains the process of getting institutions to consider menu changes and plant-based defaults.

Sarah Thorson & Ilana Braverman , Faunalytics, May 10, 2023

Food choices are extremely personal. They’re informed by our culture, upbringing, education, ethics, and more. For some, food serves as a time capsule keeping familial and cultural history alive, while for others it’s an outward expression of morals and values. Food choices can also be restricted by bodily responses, religious affiliation, and financial realities. And when we work to shift food norms, all of these considerations have to be taken into account to realize widespread change.

For animal advocates working to shift food norms, it can be tempting to ask for the elimination of meat and dairy from menus and diets, since we want to improve the lives of all living beings. But human behavior is complex, and people may respond negatively to a drastic change which they feel is forced upon them. And, with meat consumption still on the rise in the US, psychological research shows that appeals to reduce meat consumption have stronger and longer lasting impacts on eating behaviors than appeals to eliminate meat consumption completely. Serving plant-based meals by default works to accomplish both: preserving freedom of choice, while nudging consumers towards sparing the lives of many animals and lessening food’s overall impact on the environment.

Fostering Inclusivity In Foodservice

Greener by Default (GBD) consults with institutions, including universities, conferences, hospitals, and corporate cafeterias, to serve plant-based meals by default. The default is the option an individual ends up with when they don’t make an active choice. For example, every iPhone user is familiar with the brand’s default ringtone, which most of us don’t bother to change. People tend to stick with defaults partly because it’s one less decision to make, and partly because defaults are often seen as the more socially acceptable option. Because of this tendency, defaults and other behavioral nudges can be used to encourage particular food choices; research shows that implementing plant-based defaults can decrease meat consumption by 53% to 87%, depending on the environment.

With help from GBD, LinkedIn San Francisco was able to switch their menus to serve 65% veg options in the cafeteria and make oat milk the default choice for milk-based drinks in their coffee bar. GBD was also instrumental in helping NYC Health and Hospitals transition their patient meals to serve plant-based meals by default, resulting in over half of eligible patients now choosing plant-based meals. This approach leads to more plant-based options being selected, thus saving many animal lives, while also shifting food paradigms by normalizing plant-based eating. Best of all, because freedom of choice is preserved and there are still meat options available for those who want or feel they need meat at every meal, this approach does not encounter the same type of pushback as fully meatless menus….

[… Read more at Faunalytics]