By David Schuman

RICHFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) — The Richfield School District has made a change this year when it comes to school lunches.

Once a week, the high school cafeteria offers a new plant-based food option in addition to the grill foods and salad bar.

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“Yesterday we did a chana masala with curry potatoes and we did pita chips with hummus,” said Michael Manning, the district’s director of food and nutrition. “That was the first day for it, so it was exciting to try.”

Richfield is the first K-12 district in the country to pledge to have 20% of its lunch menu be plant-based by the end of 2024.

“I think the environmental impact is a huge part for us but also just giving our students more choices,” Manning said.

Some days, Manning says three or four hundred kids choose the veggie option, which is almost half the number of students who eat school lunch.

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“It’ll have to be encouraged for sure, not only from adults, but if students encourage, it’s more likely to be taken as a reasonable suggestion,” said Mari Rummel, a Richfield High junior.

Each dish gets two shots in the weekly rotation, and if students don’t go for it, the dish doesn’t get a third chance. A lo mein dish recently met such a fate.

“We’ll see how the black bean burrito bowl and chana masala hold up and see if they make it through to the next month,” Manning said.

After Christmas break, the district plans to bring in plant-based meat dishes to try out.

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David Schuman