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Plant-Based School Lunch Collaborative

Families and Students!
Learn more about More Plants on Plates Illinois and sign up for plant-based school lunches today!

Plant-Based School Lunch Collaborative

Practical strategies and creative ideas for providing the delicious, plant-based meals families and students want, with the resources and expertise of school nutrition teams in mind.

Group of students in a lunch room smiling and holding trays of healthy food

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We want to help make it happen.

Your students want plant-based meals.


The Plant-Based School Lunch Collaborative

The Plant-Based School Meals Collaborative is a project by Plant-Based Nutrition Movement, and Balanced. Together, we bring decades of practical, real-world expertise helping schools and families add delicious, health-promoting plant-based meals to menus.​


We know how hard school nutrition teams work, and we're here to help make it easier to meet the increasing demand for plant-based school meals in response to IL4089. Check out the resources and tools below, reach out for support, or contact us for other ways to get involved!


  • Posters

    Presentations,  Handouts, Social Media Posts

  • We do not have the capability to scratch cook, where can I source plant-based approved vendors with heat and serve options?

    Download this guide to find a complete list of K-12 Approved Vendors or visit to connect with plant-based food companies.

    What's the definition of plant-based?

    A plant-based diet consists of all fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs, and spices and excludes all animal products, including red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. By definition a plant-based meal is vegan.

    How will students and families let us know they want plant-based meals?

    Parents can use this form. We recommend posting it on your district‘s nutrition services webpage.To avoid time-consuming efforts collecting data, we highly recommend providing a plant-based entree option daily.

    Where can I find recipes and other resources?

    Here are links to access recipes, with nutritional information and crediting details.

    Are cheese sticks considered plant-based?

    No, cheese and or cheese-sticks are not plant-based unless they are labeled as vegan. There are, however, plenty of plant-based cheese products available. Check out the options here.

    Can adult staff members request plant-based meals?

    We would encourage you to offer plant-based meals to everyone dining with you. However, there is no wording in the bill in regards to adults, this would be a school by school decision.

    Are these changes going to cost my district money?

    In a pilot study conducted in concert with Friends of the Earth, Oakland Unified School District saved $42,000 dollars in two years after reducing its meat purchases by 30%. Serving plant-based menu items offers a reduction in cost or remains cost neutral.

    Is a bean burrito or similar item with a small bit of cheese considered plant-based?

    No, nothing with any amount of product from an animal would be considered plant-based. It could be considered plant-forward, but that is different from plant-based.

    Do all 5 components of the meal offered need to be plant-based?

    Yes, including milk.

    I don't have the labor resources to add plant-based options to my menu

    Consider the concept of “doubling the value”. By making, for example, chicken fajitas featuring peppers and onions, you can also offer veggie fajitas that include peppers, onion, and tofu. This approach allows you to create two variations of the same meal, one with animal protein and the other with plant-based ingredients, resulting in cost savings in terms of labor. This method can be applied to many recipes.

    Analyzing your menu and identifying areas where you can eliminate options would be beneficial. This approach will not only position your plant-based choices more effectively and provide healthier options for your students but also reduce your need for additional labor.

    We are not an offer vs serve school. Are there allowances in the legislation for this?

    All components served as part of the plant-based meal request, have to be plant-based.

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Tips & Tricks For Serving More Plant-Based Meals in 2024

Use the New Year as an opportunity to pledge to serve more plant-based meals. Take advantage of those New Years resolutions and set your goals now.


Keep plant-based heat and serve options in the freezer. Plant-based "chick'n" patty's for sandwiches and veggie burgers.


Take 20% of your daily hot option servings and make with a plant-based MA instead of an animal protein. For example: beans for ground beef in tacos, lentils in spaghetti, and tofu for chicken in fajitas. Make enough to freeze for the next menu cycle.


Make a daily cold plant-based option to have on hand for last minute requests. For example: Hummus kits with veggies and tortilla chips or a salad made with fresh veggies and topped with plant-based "chick'n".


Get creative with labeling. Instead of labeling plant-based items with "vegan" or "vegetarian" get creative and emphasize the benefits or flavors of the food! Use terms like nutrient-dense and fiber-rich or descriptors such as "savory, hearty chili" or "protein-packed marinara" for older students. For younger students use fun names such as "super hero spaghetti" or "totally cool tomato soup."


Plant-Based Nutrition Movement's Interview with IL4089 sponsor Senator David Koehler

Watch now!