In a groundbreaking movement, the National Plant-Based Youth Steering Committee (YSC) achieved a monumental stride in its mission. Established in 2022 by the Healthy Future Students and Earth Coalition, the YSC is made up of diverse students from across the United States who share a commitment to promoting accessible, nutritious plant-based foods in schools, all while striving to address systemic inequalities.
United in their values and driven by the pressing need to combat climate change, the YSC is a group of young activists determined to make a positive impact and facilitate transformative change for youth across America.
The committee centers on the voices of black, indigenous, people of color, and low-income students who are most impacted by school meal programs and climate change, focusing on K-12 education. More than any other demographic, students depend on school breakfast and lunch programs for their daily nutrition. For many, especially disadvantaged students of color, two-thirds of their daily diet depends on what they are fed at school.
Unfortunately, these programs predominantly lack plant-based options. The YSC’s advocacy for plant-powered foods aligns with its mission to bridge health disparities, empower marginalized communities, and combat the climate crisis. The YSC’s efforts are supported by Chilis on Wheels and Friends of the Earth, part of a broader coalition dedicated to progressive change.
Advocating for plant-based food in schools
During their recent visit to Washington DC in July, the students engaged with legislators in over 40 meetings, presenting six pivotal bills aimed at transforming the landscape of plant-based food accessibility. They met with Congress, the White House, and the USDA to advocate for plant-based food in schools, reshape the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and drive federal policies toward nutrition, food security, and climate-conscious food systems.
Central to their proposed mandate is the Healthy Future Students and Earth Act. This legislation seeks to allocate $10 million in voluntary grant-based funding to schools that incorporate plant-based menu choices, including streamlining access to non-dairy milk for students.
Additionally, their advocacy extended to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), where they championed the establishment of a youth advisory council. This initiative, driven by the YSC’s vision, would create tangible and lasting changes for the next generation of youth. Other lobbying efforts included farm reform bills designed to slow the expansion of factory farms and offer resources for transitioning away from industrial agriculture.
Lauren, a 20-year-old activist from Plymouth, Massachusetts, offered her perspective on the YSC’s journey. “Our committee’s meetings with the Executive Office of the President and the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and Agriculture Marketing Service, however, were disappointing. A recurring theme was a displacement of responsibility.” Despite such challenges, the committee’s resolve remains unshaken as they push for transformative change.
Find out more about the National Plant-Based Youth Steering Committee and its initiatives by following them on Instagram.milk plant-based non-dairy funding