Mainstreaming Veganism in Public Spaces
… by asking for plant-based or vegan options we begin to take ground and veganism becomes more mainstream in public spaces.
As veganism becomes mainstream with consumers, the question of vegan or plant-based food options being available in public spaces is being asked more frequently and increasingly loudly.
Given the health benefits of plant-based eating over alternative dietary choices, hospitals spring to mind pretty quickly. Indeed, some hospitals are beginning to offer an entirely plant-based menu option to their patients and are cutting back on unhealthy foods.
In 2017 the American Medical Association called for hospitals to provide a variety of healthy food to patients, including plant-based meals. In California, by law, by the end of 2018 all hospitals, licensed healthcare facilities and prisons must now offer healthy plant-based options to patients or inmates.
As one example, the Good Samaritan Medical Hospital, in Florida, USA, a doctor noted when on the rounds one day that a patient he was visiting, who recently had a heart attack and had been given a stent, was being served a cheeseburger. The doctor paused, thinking, that something was wrong in that picture. The hospital now offers a plant-based menu option for all patients.
While in New York, USA, Stony Brook University Hospital not only provides patients with a plant-based menu option, but vegetables come from its rooftop garden, while bacon, hot drinks and fizzy drinks have been banned.
On the other side of the Atlantic, The Vegan Society is challenging the British government to enforce provision of one vegan food option every day at all public sector institutions in England – that includes hospitals, as well as schools, universities, councils and prisons.
Currently, in the UK it is up to each institution to determine their offering based on perceived local needs, although if a patient notifies the hospital that they have a vegan dietary requirement, the hospital will provide something plant-based for them. Sidenote - if you want to sign the petition to join this call (100,000 signatures results in it being debated in Parliament), click here. The Vegan Society also explains how British parents can use their rights to ask for inclusive catering, to ask their schools for vegan food options for their children.
What about schools in other places?
Moving across the Channel, in Germany, a kindergarten founded by a parents association has opened in Frankfurt that only offers vegan food to its young pupils. However, surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly given the resistance by some to veganism, some local politicians have considered this a form of physical abuse.
Heading down under to Australia, Vegan Australia is planning campaigns that aim to see vegan food made available in health institutions, prisons, government-sponsored functions, and in schools.
For schoolchildren in the USA who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches at their public or independent school through the National School Lunch Program, alternative protein vegan products are approved under the program but are not necessarily be available at every school. For those in California, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the nation, covering approximately 650,000 students, has plans to become the first to offer a vegan lunch option at every one of their schools. In terms of independent schools, the recently opened MUSE School in California, opened by director James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar, etc.) and his wife Suzy Amis, serves only plant-based meals to its students.
While this all bodes well, it’s clearly early days yet.
What comes across, again and again, is that while options may not yet be available at your local school, hospital, healthcare facility, prison or other public sector institution – by asking for plant-based or vegan options, we begin to take ground and veganism becomes more mainstream in public spaces.
What also quickly comes across is that those living in more socio-economically well-off areas, and those individuals with greater financial capability generally, seem likely to have better access to healthy vegan or plant-based options in public spaces.
Yet food insecurity and food deserts for individuals and families, whether they are in the USA, UK or elsewhere, is a painful reality within many communities. Arguably, this makes healthy plant-based meals, particularly those that are free or affordable, all the more important in public spaces for those whose nutritional intake at home may be lacking.
Whether you begin or come alongside a campaign lobbying for vegan options in public spaces in your local area, state or nation, or whether you speak up boldly when faced with needing a vegan option for yourself or a loved one when in a public space – the more of us that ask, the sooner it will come about.
“New Evidence of Child Food Insecurity in the UK.” The Food Foundation, June 2017. Accessed January 7, 2019. https://foodfoundation.org.uk/new-evidence-of-child-food-insecurity-in-the-uk/.
“Petition - Require Plant-Based Options Suitable for Vegans on Public Sector Menus Every Day.” UK Government & Parliament - Petitions. Accessed January 7, 2019. https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/228078.
“USDA Defines Food Deserts.” American Nutrition Association - Nutrition Digest Vol 38, No 2. Accessed January 7, 2019. http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts.
“US Health Experts Call On Hospitals To Serve Vegan Food.” Plant Based News, June 21, 2017. Accessed January 7, 2019. https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/us-health-experts-call-on-hospitals-to-serve-vegan-food.
“Vegan Australia Campaigns.” Vegan Australia. Accessed January 7, 2019. https://www.veganaustralia.org.au/campaigns.
Baker, Amanda. “How to Advocate for Vegan Meals at Your Local School.” The Vegan Society, August 21, 2015. Accessed January 7, 2019. https://www.vegansociety.com/whats-new/blog/how-advocate-vegan-meals-your-local-school.
Cartwright, Ashlee. “Vegan-at-Law: Vegan and Vegetarian Options in the National School Lunch Program.” Generation Veggie: Raising Plant-Powered Kids, n.d. Accessed January 7, 2019. http://www.generationveggie.org/vegan-at-law-vegan-and-vegetarian-options-in-the-national-school-lunch-program/.
Chiorando, Maria. “Politician Labels Vegan German Kindergarten ‘A Form of Physical Abuse,’” March 15, 2018. Accessed January 7, 2019. https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/politician-labels-vegan-german-kindergarten-a-form-of-physical-abuse.
Court, Emily. “Florida Hospital Launches Vegan Menu for Better Health.” Plant Based News, February 15, 2018. Accessed January 7, 2019. https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/florida-hospital-launches-vegan-menu-better-health.
Monaco, Emily. “Plant-Based School Lunch Options Could Be Offered at America’s 2nd Largest School District in 2018,” December 18, 2017. Accessed January 7, 2019. https://foodrevolution.org/blog/vegan-school-lunches/.
Paynter, Ben. “The U.S. Continues to Make Barely Any Progress against Food Insecurity.” Fast Company, September 7, 2018. Accessed January 7, 2019. https://www.fastcompany.com/90232812/the-2018-udsa-food-insecurity-report-is-bleak.