Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: Educating for Sustainability
Overview: An agreement between Humane Society International, Mercy for Animals, and the Salvador municipality in Brazil will ensure that 10 million plant-based school meals will be served each year in Salvador.
Location: Salvador, Brazil
Population: 170,000 students
Food policy category: Nutrition, Sustainability, Climate Change
Program goals: To provide more nutritious school food options for students, and to reduce carbon emissions.
How it works: Participating municipal schools will be able to offer students plant-based meals at no extra cost to the school. Each school will receive training in nutrition and environmental education and a dedicated team of nutritionists, chefs, and menu developers to support them in carrying out the new initiative. Recipes that replace meat with more legumes, grains, fruits, and vegetables have been developed through the National School Feeding Program according to student preferences and the culture of the region.
Progress to date: The agreement was signed on March 22, 2022, and will be implemented in all 444 schools in the municipality starting in August 2022.
Why it is important: Municipal school children in Brazil, who are primarily members of the poorest socioeconomic bracket, do not consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, and typically get their protein from animal sources, according to Municipal Secretary of Education, Marcelo Oliveira. A primary goal of the program is to form healthy, sustainable eating habits among school children that can be maintained into adulthood.
Plant-based diets are linked to a reduced risk of chronic conditions, and children who consume a plant-based diet are less likely to develop obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
The program is also designed to protect the environment and create a more sustainable food system. Plant-based food production results in much lower rates of greenhouse gas emissions than does animal-based food production. For example, one kilogram of meat produces 60 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions, while one kilogram of peas releases only one kilogram of emissions.
Soy, 70 to 75 percent of which is used as animal feed, and beef production are the leading causes of tropical deforestation, a particularly dire issue in the Amazon rainforest that covers much of Brazil.
It is estimated that the program will eliminate 75,000 tons of carbon emissions, save 400 million liters of water, and preserve 16,000 hectares (39,520 acres) of forest.
Point of contact:
Leandro Becker, Communication Director, Mercy for Animals
Phone: +5511 95339-8734
Thayana Oliveira, Food Policy Manager, Humane Society International
Phone: +5531 98484-4890
Similar practices: In February 2022, New York City introduced Plant-Powered Fridays, when the main meal served in school cafeterias is vegan. Plant Based School Kitchens is an organization working towards implementing plant-based, gluten-free kitchens in all UK schools.
Evaluation: Evaluation has not yet been conducted.
- The Effects of Plant-Based Diets on the Body and the Brain: A Systematic Review (Translational Psychiatry)
- Interactive: What is the Climate Impact of Eating Meat and Dairy? (Carbon Brief)
- Meat Accounts for Nearly 60% of All Greenhouse Gases from Food Production, study finds (The Guardian)
- Using Food Records to Assess Excessive Meat Intake in Brazil and Its Environmental Impact (International Dietary Data Expansion Project)
- Agreement will Bring More than 10 Million Healthy and Sustainable Meals a Year to Students from Municipal Schools in Salvador (Humane Society International)
- The Amazon Rain Forest is Nearly Gone (Time)
- Brazil Commits To Serving 10 Million Sustainable Plant-Based School Meals A Year (Green Queen)
- Brazil is Serving 10 Million Plant-Based Meals to Students. Why Not the US? (The Beet)
- Brazil Pledges to Serve 10 Million Plant-Based School Meals Every Year (Vegan Food and Living)
- Brazil to Provide 10 Million Plant-Based Meals to School Kids Every Year (Totally Vegan Buzz)
- Brazil To Serve 10 Million Plant-Based Meals To Students Every Year (Plant Based News)
- Environmental Impacts of Food Production (Our World in Data)
- Four Ways Vegan Diets Can Benefit Kids (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)
- Plant-Powered Meals (NYC Department of Education)
- What are the Biggest Drivers of Tropical Deforestation? (World Wildlife Fund)
Photo credit: Enaldo Pinto