Back in 2012, when we began the mission of shifting MUSE’s lunch program to a plant based format, we were met with a fair amount of opposition. There were concerns over how our students were going to get enough protein, calcium and other essential nutrients. Would they really turn down a beef slider in favor of a veggie patty? Would swapping out dairy yogurt for a coconut alternative be noticed? What if the students didn’t eat anything? The notion of eliminating a major food category seemed radical.

Fast forward, five years later and attitudes are changing. Not just at MUSE but across the foodservice industry as well. All you have to do is flip through the pages of cooking magazines or check out the industry trends of 2017 and you will notice that plant based foods are getting noticed and the attention isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. With brands like Impossible and Beyond Meat developing vegan burgers that bleed like a real beef patty and rival it in taste and texture, cutting back on meat consumption is becoming more likely even for hardcore carnivores. Ingenious uses of aquafaba (the liquid that remains after cooking chickpeas) are proving that you can make delicious vegan baked goods without the eggs. In the beverage category, plant based milks, fresh pressed juices and unique beverage like kombucha are driving down sales of dairy milk and soda across the board. To top it all off, hospitals, schools, universities and restaurants are introducing programs like “Meatless Mondays” and getting rave reviews from their customers and clientele.

With medical issues such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity on the rise, people are beginning to seek out healthier, non-traditional ways of eating and cooking and the creativity and innovation in the plant based market is proving that we are only just getting started. Not only are there health benefits associated with eating less meat and dairy, but as we are coming to see, it leaves a gentler imprint on the environment as well. By eating one plant based meal a day, each person can save 194,667 gallons of water and reduce their carbon emissions by 772 pounds in a year.

As we enter in to the 2017-18 school year, we have the opportunity for a new beginning. It’s a great time to reset our goals and try some new things. Here at MUSE, we hope that one of those goals will be for you and your family to join us in our OMD challenge: eating one plant based meal a day for the planet. We will be featuring weekly recipes, photos, information and advice on this blog and we hope that you will check back in often to stay inspired along the way. We wish you a fun, fulfilling and safe school year. Welcome back!