Miami is beginning to make a name for itself in the plant-based culinary world, but it hasn't always been known for its green approach to food. Miami-Dade County Public Schools is ahead of the curve, however. Not only is the school district rolling out compostable plates this year, but it has also been offered veg-friendly options daily for many years, with more being added all the time.
Now, in partnership with the Humane Society's Farm Animal Protection campaign, the district is embracing the concept of "lean and green." Similar to a "meatless Monday" but more flexible regarding timing, the program is designed to get kids excited about eating plant-focused meals.
"Going green and healthy is and has been a goal for the Department of Food and Nutrition, and we have been serving vegetarian choices on our menus as well as our farm-to-school and school garden partners and programs," says Dr. Penny Parham, administrative director of the district's Department of Food and Nutrition.
School administrators met with the Humane Society and Karla Dumas, a registered dietitian and food policy expert who specializes in creating veggie menus. Dumas spent almost a decade working with schools in the Sarasota area before joining the Humane Society this past January.
"By branding 'Lean and Green,' students will have a more visible identifier of the vegetarian and vegan menu choices offered, as well as links to information on our sustainability initiatives, such as the compostable plate pilot and school garden partnerships. The branding also offers educational opportunities to expand and develop new initiatives that reduce waste and conserve resources," Parham adds.
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The Humane Society has also been helping with promotions, creating posters featuring teen stars such as Holland Roden of MTV's Teen Wolf and Nickelodeon's Daniella Monet.
"Eventually, once the year gets up and running, they want to create some posters that are focused on their students — showing these kids enjoying these plant-based foods," Dumas explains of the district's plans. "We have marketing resources for posters and electronic resources like share graphics for social media."
As far as actual food options for Miami kids, there will be plenty of healthful choices come August.
"Menu items that will be noted with our Lean and Green branding include brown rice and bean entrées and side dishes; farm-to-school green beans, corn, and other vegetables and fruits available during the school year; vegetarian wraps and entrée salads; vegetable and fruit smoothies; and featured school-garden-to-cafeteria connections where items grown by students in their school garden are featured and served on their school’s menu when harvested," Parham says.