This week, the California state legislature adopted a $308B budget that, for the first time, allocates public funding for alternative protein research while expanding plant-based school meals.
Supporting robust research
Under Section 190, a new provision states that $5M will be directed to support the research and development of plant-based and cultivated meats, reports The Spoon. The funds will be allocated to three public universities: UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Davis, which have all created successful alt-protein research programs.
The language marks the first time California has designated public funds specifically for the development of cultivated meat, a major milestone that industry leaders, such as Berkeley’s UPSIDE Foods, are applauding.
“This historic investment in research and development across the University of California system will ensure that California remains a leader in food and innovation,” shared an UPSIDE spokesperson. “At UPSIDE Foods, we believe strongly in the need for open access research to build a robust cultivated meat ecosystem that benefits all.“
The startup, which opened its EPIC pilot plant near UC Berkeley last year, reveals it hosted facility tours for state lawmakers to advocate for increased research funding.
Healthy school lunches
The 2022 budget also includes significant funding to expand healthy plant-based meals in the state’s schools. Specifically, Assembly Bill 558 provides:
- $100M to support schools in procuring plant-based foods and other sustainably produced or California-grown foods.
- $600M to upgrade school kitchen infrastructure and to train foodservice workers in preparing plant-based meals and scratch-meals, which facilitates healthier eating.
“A multiyear effort”
The legislative effort to fund plant-based lunches was led by Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys).
“A huge thank you to Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian for his persistence in championing the budget proposal to include funding for plant-based school meals and milks. This has been a multiyear effort by the Assemblymember, the co-sponsoring organizations, and the thousands of supporters throughout California who made their voices heard,” said Judie Mancuso, founder and president of Social Compassion in Legislation, a co-sponsor of AB 558.