032222cm0719 r1SPRINGFIELD – A measure by State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) to offer nutritional, plant-based lunch options to students across the state advanced out of the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.

“Students may require plant-based meal options for religious, health-based or other, personal reasons,” Koehler said. “Our schools should be prepared to offer nutritional options for students with dietary restrictions.”

House Bill 4089 requires school districts to provide a plant-based school lunch option that complies with federal nutritional standards to any student who submits a prior request.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages the use of fresh fruits and vegetables in school meals, and offers a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to grant access to students at least twice a week at times during the school day other than meal periods. The USDA encourages schools to develop innovative and varied methods to offer the fruits and vegetables to students, and a plant-based lunch option would be one way of doing so.

Plant-based school lunch options would also suffice as Halal options for Muslim students so long as there are no alcohol or alcohol byproducts, such as vanilla extract or other extracts, used in the preparation of the meal.

“All students deserve the opportunity to have a well-rounded, nutritional meal at school that meets their dietary needs,” Koehler said. “For some kids it may be the only substantial meal they get that day, and they need to be able to make the most of it.” 

The legislation now awaits further consideration.