Area schools look at adding meatless meals to the menu

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VINTON, Iowa (KCRG) - Four Eastern Iowa School Districts learned how to cook a number of plant-based meals on Wednesday.

People with various school districts in the Vinton area sample new recipes for school lunches that use plant-based, meatless protein alternatives on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 (Brian Tabick/KCRG)

Benton Community School District, Center Point-Urbana and Union met at Vinton-Shellsburg to cook the meals. The hope is to give healthier options to students while also using more local options.

“Everything tasted pretty good to me,” Jane Svekstka, Benton Community School District Cafeteria Director, said.

How each school district will implement the meals into its current rotation of foods is different.

“We are trying out some new recipes, tasting them and then we will make them for the kids to try,” Catherine Stuelke, with the Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District, said.

Funding will also be up to the individual districts. Stuelke said they will use grant money to continue paying for green efforts.

“We just got our implementation grant and submit that so we’ll hopefully get more money and being able to continue work with this,” Stuelke said.

Svestka, on the other hand, said it won’t add costs to their current budget.

“I don’t think we’ll have to find additional funding,” Svestka said. “Plant-based products tend to cost less.”

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor, meat prices over the last year have mostly gone up while some protein substitutes and plant products have gone down, but both schools said the need for these foods is an important one.

“It’s keeping business in Iowa,” Stuelke said. “A lot of times we grow the product in Iowa and then it goes out of the state and we buy it elsewhere, this would allow us to keep it here.”