WASHINGTON – EWG today applauds the Biden administration for releasing a bold proposal to end hunger by 2030 and help consumers build healthier diets.
In particular, the “National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health” pledges to increase the availability of plant-based and vegetarian options at federal facilities.
More than 30 members of Congress and a broad coalition of chefs, farm, food, public health, animal welfare and environmental groups have urged the administration to make a plant-based or vegetarian option available everywhere the federal government serves a meal.
“We applaud the Biden administration for making hunger and health an urgent priority,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs.
Fewer than half of federal facilities surveyed routinely offer a plant-based or vegetarian entree option, and many of those options provide limited nutritional benefits, an EWG survey found.
The survey of 521 federal domestic dining facilities – including federal prisons, parks, hospitals, museums and government buildings – found:
- 22 never offered a plant-based or vegetarian entrée option.
- 41 provided a plant-based or vegetarian option less than three days a week.
- 213 offered a plant-based or vegetarian option three days a week.
- 245 provided a plant-based or vegetarian option more than three days a week.
Federal dining facilities are not required to provide a plant-based or vegetarian option, but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on federal dining facilities recommend offering one at least three times a week.
EWG’s survey also found significant variation among domestic federal dining facilities:
- All 122 federal prisons offer inmates a plant-based or vegetarian option at every meal.
- 120 of 217 Defense Department facilities surveyed provide a plant-based or vegetarian option three times a week, and 54 offer the option more than three times a week.
- 34 of 46 Veterans Affairs hospitals surveyed provide a plant-based or vegetarian option at least three days a week.
- Only one of 90 National Parks dining facilities surveyed failed to offer visitors plant-based or vegetarian option at least three times a week.
- Over half of federal museums and other tourist attractions provide a plant-based or vegetarian option more than three times a week.
Demand for plant-based and vegetarian options is growing, studies show. Plant-based food sales increased by more than 6 percent in 2021, outpacing other food categories. Almost 30 percent of consumers say they are trying to eat less meat, and almost 80 percent of Gen Z and Millennials say they are incorporating plant-based options into their diet.
“The Biden plan makes it a priority to improve access to healthy options, including plant-based and vegetarian options,” Faber said. “Everyone has a role to play if we want to address diet-related disease, and the federal government should lead by example.”
The federal government spends billions of dollars providing nearly half a million meals annually to visitors, workers, inmates and patients, so modest changes in meal patterns could produce significant health benefits. Research shows that increasing healthy options can lead to healthier choices by consumers, and that healthier choices can help lower risks posed by high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and certain cancers.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.