Plant-Based Meals Become the Default Option on US University Campuses

Plant-Based Meals Become the Default Option on US University Campuses

Sodexo USA recently announced that it has massively expanded the use of the DefaultVeg Strategy in university dining halls. This strategy, which was first piloted by Sodexo in collaboration with the Better Food Foundation and the Food for Climate League in university canteens with all-you-can-eat offerings, uses behavioral incentives to encourage a plant-based dietary change.

The expansion of offerings coincides with the publication of a recent peer-reviewed study conducted in Sodexo-operated dining halls, which concluded that offering plant-based meals as a standard may preserve students’ freedom of choice while encouraging them to choose these meals more often. The study, authored by Boston College researchers Joel Ginn and Gregg Sparkman, was published in the February issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology and was conducted by the Food for Climate League with support from the Better Food Foundation.

150% increase in opted plant-based meals

A separate report on the same pilot program, produced by the Food for Climate League and the Better Food Foundation, suggests even greater potential benefits for institutions that consistently follow this strategy. In this report, it was calculated that the two universities that most consistently implemented the plant-based meal strategy during the pilot program saw a staggering 150% increase in plant-based meal choices, resulting in up to 81.5% of students choosing plant-based meals. In addition, the switch led to a 23.6% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions attributed to catering at the three schools.

The concept is now firmly integrated into the menus of Sodexo canteens at almost 400 universities and colleges in the USA. At these locations, there are two stations in each dining hall that encourage students to choose plant-based meals unless the school actively chooses not to: one station that is entirely plant-based and one station that alternates between plant-based and animal-based meals each day. In total, around 1 million students are catered for in the canteens of these schools every day.

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