Food Service

Kent State University Partners with Forward Food, Aims for 30% Plant-Based Meals by 2026

Kent State University in Ohio has announced its plan to increase its plant-based meal offerings to 30% across all dining services by 2026. This initiative, developed in partnership with the Humane Society of the United States’ Forward Food program, aims to enhance the sustainability and nutritional value of food choices available to students on campus.

“With over a third of our student body embracing diverse dietary preferences […] it’s imperative to cater to their needs”

Kent State University’s decision to double the plant-based meal target comes after the university successfully exceeded its previous objective of making 15% of its meals plant-based in its residential dining facilities. Sarah Korzan, a licensed and registered dietician and assistant director of Kent State’s culinary services, says that the shift is part of a move to cater to the diverse dietary preferences of the student population.

“With over a third of our student body embracing diverse dietary preferences, including vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, and flexitarian lifestyles, it’s imperative to cater to their needs by offering a wide selection of meat-free alternatives,” Korzan stated in a press release.

Plant-based pilot program

The expanded commitment is timed with the approach of National Nutrition Month in March 2024, during which Kent State plans to launch a plant-based pilot program. This initiative will include student engagement activities and educational opportunities to highlight the benefits of plant-based eating. As part of the preparatory efforts, Forward Food is conducting plant-based culinary training for the university’s food service staff this month.

Forward Food Chef Training
© Forward Food

Other North American universities have also leveraged the Forward Food program to transition to more plant-forward menus. Last year, Western University in Canada also reported surpassing its goal to make 40% of its dining hall menus plant-based by January 2024 through the program. Forward Food provided extensive training to the university’s chefs, enabling them to create creative plant-based menus for the residence dining halls, leading to 43% of all meals being plant-based by September 2023.

Tracy Burgio, a culinary specialist with the Humane Society of the United States, praised Kent State’s dedication to providing sustainable and health-conscious dining options. She commented, “Kent State is clearly committed to sustainable, nutritious, and delicious menu offerings. We’re delighted to work with them to bring new plant-based options to their students.”

50% plant-based by 2027

The university’s partnership with Forward Food has been instrumental in achieving these goals, offering a range of resources and training to support the transition to more plant-based menus as part of its goal of transitioning US institutions to an average of 50% plant-based options by 2027.

Christine Coughlin, the food service innovation coordinator at the Humane Society of the United States, concluded, “This plant-based pilot will help animals while also cutting Kent State’s greenhouse gas emissions. We’re excited to help them improve animal welfare and to help calculate the positive environmental impact these menu options will make.”

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