Soon, kids won’t be staring at their lunch trays guessing what mystery meat they’ve just been served. Schools across California and Washington will roll out vegan chicken nuggets on cafeteria menus, providing students with a healthier, less-mysterious lunch option. The vegan Kickin’ Nuggets come from Seattle-based Rebellyous Foods, a plant-based food tech company founded by the former senior scientist of The Good Food Institute Christie Lagally. Partnering with six school districts, Rebellyous Foods will serve nearly 125,000 students its vegan chicken nuggets.
The plant-based company aims to enhance the accessibility of vegan foods, especially within schools and hospitals. Lagally hopes that the partnerships with schools will allow young children to develop healthier eating habits from an early age.
“As school districts across the nation face supply chain shortages, we are proud to be able to offer students nutritious, delicious, plant-based nuggets,” Lagally said. “Making plant-based foods available to everyone, especially schoolchildren, is a critical part of our mission at Rebellyous Foods.”
The vegan chicken nuggets are made of textured wheat, cornstarch, oil, corn breading, and chicken-less flavoring to replicate the taste of traditional chicken nuggets. The new plant-based product also gained two meat alternative credits from the National School Lunch Program. The company boasts that its plant-based alternatives are healthier across the board, containing lower sodium and saturated fat as well as being free from cholesterol, antibiotics, or hormones.
Last year, San Ramon Valley Unified School District in Northern California became the first school district to add the plant-based Kickin’ Nuggets to its cafeterias. Now, three additional California districts have entered the partnership including Dublin Unified, Livermore Joint Unified, and Pleasanton Unified. Another school district in Southern California, Santa Ana Unified, also teamed up with Rebellyous Foods. Outside of California, one district in Washington began offering the vegan nuggets including the Everett Public Schools.
“Schools play a pivotal role in shaping children’s dietary patterns, so we are thrilled to be able to offer Rebellyous Kickin’ Nuggets to help acquaint our diners with delicious plant-based options while teaching the importance of eating a wider variety of foods,” Director of Child Nutrition Services at Dublin Unified School District Frank Castro said.
Rebellyous Foods is not the first company to enter the school lunch category. Earlier this year, plant-based giant Impossible Foods initiated a campaign to serve plant-based foods in school cafeterias. Impossible Foods cited that the decision was inspired by a survey where the company asked children their stance on climate change. The brand found that 73 percent of children believed they had the power to combat climate, but nearly 99 percent of children claimed they ate meat at least once a month. The company hopes that by introducing vegan options at an early age, it will inspire children to adopt plant-based eating.
“Our research shows that kids care about climate change, and they want to do something about it,” Impossible Foods said in its report. “But they’re still far more likely to take actions like recycling or limiting food waste than they are to stop eating meat, even when they’re educated about climate change contributors. That’s why it’s so important to give them an easy solution that they resonate with. The Impossible Burger taps into two key needs for kids: the desire to eat something tasty, and the urge to feel like they are making a difference – in this case, saving the world.”
Following the survey, Impossible Foods gained the Child Nutrition label from the United States Department of Agriculture. This certification will allow the company to introduce its plant-based products to school districts nationwide.
School districts have also taken action to promote plant-based eating within the school cafeterias. Democratic nominee for NYC mayor Eric Adams passed an initiative during his time as Brooklyn Borough President to observe Meatless Mondays across all 1,700 NYC public schools. While concerns regarding health and the environment rapidly increase, school districts and vegan companies are working to introduce healthier and more sustainable options for children across the country.
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