Trenton Special School District has become the first K-12 school district in Tennessee to pledge to significantly increase its plant-based breakfast and lunch options. Despite being a small rural district with approximately 1,400 students, Trenton SSD is making a big impact by signing the Humane Society of the United States’ Forward Food pledge, setting a goal to reach 33% plant-based options by 2027.

“In an era of increasing recognition of the importance of sustainable practices, Trenton SSD’s decision to prioritize plant-forward foods sets a precedent for other school districts across the South,” said Liz Clark, food service innovation coordinator at the HSUS. “We’re looking forward to helping the school district’s team integrate plant-based options into their menus in ways that honor the traditions of Tennessee’s Southern cuisine.”

Lisa Seiber-Garland, director of Child Nutrition and Federal Finance for Trenton SSD, highlighted the district’s commitment to provide quality plant-based meals for students. “Trenton SSD is working with local farmers and the HSUS to ensure that our students receive the best plant-based options that meet our nutritional standards and entice our students with new choices,” she said.

According to Mary Bonsall, culinary program manager with the HSUS, the team will support Trenton SSD throughout this process. “We are very excited to work with Lisa and her team in Trenton to expand their menu diversity and offer more plant-based options to their students. Lisa has approached this new goal with unwavering confidence, and we know they will reach their targets with ease,” Bonsall stated.

Sieber-Garland plans to share the district’s plant-forward strategies at the Tennessee School Nutrition Association state conference in June. The annual conference brings together school nutrition professionals from across the state to share ideas and innovations in nutrition in K-12 schools. Liz Clark will represent the HSUS there, with a presentation, “Plant-Powered Plates: Nurturing Healthy Habits in K-12 Cafeterias,” that highlights Trenton SSD’s pledge.

The Humane Society of the United States collaborates with food service management companies and institutions in the country to help them implement more healthy, sustainable, and inclusive plant-based meals. The HSUS employs expert chefs, food service professionals, registered dietitians and specialists in menu development. The team provides new plant-based menu concepts; teaches food service professionals how to prepare those items; and helps industry members roll out the new menus nationwide with effective menu placement, labeling, and marketing. By equipping individuals with the knowledge and skills to prepare delicious plant-based meals, to make plant-based options more accessible and attractive to a wider audience.

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