Making sure students have nutrient dense lunches is an important part of learning. That’s why Richfield High School, located in Richfield, a suburb of Minneapolis, has committed to increasing its plant-based options and is the first high school in the country to sign the Forward Food Pledge.

Institutions that sign the pledge commit to adding more plant-based menu offerings each year. By the end of 2024, Richfield High School’s plant-based menu items will represent 20% of the items offered to students. The school will provide data to the Humane Society of the United States, a collaborator with Forward Food, to track its progress reaching annual milestones.

The HSUS commends the school for providing over 1,300 students with more sustainable recipe options this school year and being a leader in the plant-forward movement, especially amongst K-12 schools.

Michael Manning, director of food and nutrition at Richfield Public Schools, said, “Students and their families have been asking for healthy, plant-based, and culturally appropriate meal options, and we are very excited to be able to deliver.”

This collaboration also came as the result of Richfield’s ongoing relationship with Wholesome Minnesota, a Minneapolis-based program dedicated to increasing consumption of plant-based foods across Minnesotan schools.

Jodi Gruhn, program coordinator at Wholesome Minnesota, said about the newly-established relationship: “American schools serve over 7 billion meals per year—that’s a lot of food. Increasing plant-based options allows Richfield Public Schools to lead and meet their goals around student health, sustainability and cost. Plant-based foods improve heart health and reduce risk of type 2 diabetes and cancer. They are also much less environmentally intensive and cost less than meat-based options. With Minnesota being one of the healthiest states in the nation, it just makes sense that our schools move in this direction.”

Manning hopes that the success of plant-based menu offerings at Richfield High School, with the assistance of the Humane Society of the United States and Wholesome Minnesota, will lead to additional schools in the district adopting a more plant-forward dining experience for the health of students as well as the planet.

Sonny Rodriguez, a food service innovation coordinator at the Humane Society of the United States, said, “We are delighted to be partnering with Richfield Public Schools in bringing new plant-based menu options to the students. Richfield is setting a meaningful example for Minnesota schools on how to offer delicious, environmentally and animal-friendly food choices.”

As a result of signing the Forward Food Pledge, Richfield High School now has access to the Humane Society of the United States’ entire toolkit of free resources, including ongoing consultation and support, menu evaluations, chef-led in-person and virtual trainings and assistance with environmental impact assessments.  

To learn more about Wholesome Minnesota contact program coordinator Jodi Gruhn at

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