ISLANDIA, New York – With the success of its 2022 Veggabóls launch, the first 100% plant-based K-12 concept in the country, Whitsons Culinary Group has taken steps to increase its sustainability goal. This decision has been driven by the success of the schools they service which are working to reduce their carbon emissions through sustainable menu changes.
With the help of the Humane Society of the United States, Whitsons tracked and calculated the greenhouse gas savings metrics from the Veggabóls menu items. One month’s worth of carbon equivalent emissions saved from 49 participating accounts totaled an impressive 80,820 lbs. That’s the equivalent of 90,966 miles driven, 4,459,339 smartphones charged, and 17,953 trees planted.
Several of the school districts that Whitsons serves have shown an impressive impact through these metrics, including Southern York County School District in PA, Winchester Public Schools in MA, and Valley Stream Central High School District in NY. Their monthly savings made up about 36% of these total greenhouse gas emission savings. Whitsons’ teams understand the vast impact they have on the environment and the students they serve, and they are excited to continue to pave the way for others in the industry by featuring plant-based protein options in their everyday service as a standard practice.
Yolanda Haynes, Whitsons general manager at Sewanhaka Central High School District in NY, was one of the first to participate in the Veggabóls program in 2022, and she is delighted to be at the forefront of Whitsons' plant-based initiatives. "I personally favor more natural ingredients and seeing the beauty of all the colors, flavors and fundamental nutrients that this plant-based program brings to our students is exciting,” Hayne says. “Furthermore, to see the students view these meals in the same manner is very rewarding and encourages new plant-based meal offerings to be introduced in our schools frequently. Our plant-based offerings are especially favored by students with varying food practices and cultures within the school community. On occasion, at some schools these offerings can account for up to 20% of our daily sales. This program truly supports our mission of Enhancing Life One Meal at a Time™.”
”At Whitsons, we are excited to do our part in helping to create a more sustainable environment for all. In addition to our existing sustainability practices, which include recycling programs, share tables, composting, and more, we plan to achieve our goal of 33% plant-based offerings by 2025 by setting forth menu requirements for our teams to follow. Beginning in the 2023-2024 school year, our schools will be required to menu one plant-based meal out of every four meals offered, and beginning with the 2024-2025 school year, we plan to increase this requirement to one plant-based meal out of every three meals offered on the menu,” said Mary DiStefano, director of marketing and brand management for Whitsons Culinary Group. Through collaboration with the Humane Society of the US, they will also be developing new recipes to add to the concept, as well as converting many of their vegetarian options to be fully plant-based.
Whitsons previously received an “A” rating from the HSUS in its 2022 Foodservice Industry Protein and Sustainability Scorecard, and will land at the top of the list again in the upcoming 2023 scorecard.
Kate Watts, food service innovation manager for the HSUS, said, “We are consistently impressed with the impact being made by Whitsons and their enthusiastic school accounts, and we’re having a lot of fun collaborating together. Whitsons has showcased a thoughtful and organized approach to the Veggabóls initiative, which will ensure long lasting success. The changes they are making to their menus will benefit their students, the environment, and the welfare of animals for years to come.”