SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — A new initiative to give Illinois students a plant-based lunch option is one signature from the governor away from being state law.
“I was interested in it because it talks about offering alternative lunches for students in school because either religious reasons, cultural reasons, or the fact that they just have some lifestyle choices that they’re making, maybe some health restrictions,” Koehler said.
The bill is an amendment to the School Breakfast and Lunch Program Act, and would require schools to provide, “a plant-based school lunch option to those students who submit a prior request to the school district.”
He said it would also serve as a halal option for Illinois’ Muslim students (as long as no alcohol or alcohol byproducts are used when making the meal).
Not only will the plant-based option accommodate health, religious, or cultural restrictions, Koehler said, it will also promote an overall healthier diet.
“It becomes a way that we can see better nutrition and better health in our schools,” he said. “And I know, I’ve seen studies on this, where the nutritional quality has improved, so have students’ attendance, attention spans, the fact that behavioral problems seem to go down.”
The bill received plenty of bipartisan support, he said.
“What it means is that we’re concerned about the health and wellbeing of students in school,” he said. “And we really need to take a holistic view of that. And health and nutrition is a part of it.”
“School lunches are sometimes the only good meal a day some students have, unfortunately. So let’s make it the best we can for their health and wellbeing,” Koehler continued.