Chartwells Celebrates Earth Day With Meatless and Sustainable Options in School Dining Centers

RYE BROOK, NY (April 24, 2012 - Marketwire)—Recently, as part of National Nutrition Month, Branford Public Schools (BPS), CT, teamed up with a local vegetarian restaurant to offer the first ever meatless vegan lunch service for students at Branford. The event was initiated by Robert Weber, Director of Dining Services in Branford, also as part of Chartwells' Simply Good Flexitarian program to highlight meatless meal options in the dining center. The event also coincided with Earth Day, which has been celebrated each year on April 22nd for the last 42 years.

Since Earth Day 2010, Chartwells has been highlighting meatless meal options on menus as part of their "Be a Flexitarian" program. A flexitarian is someone who actively incorporates meatless meals into meals but isn't necessarily a vegetarian.

"I felt the time was right to form a partnership with local restaurants," said Weber, who sought the expertise of vegan chef Mark Shadle, owner of G-Zen, a local vegan restaurant in Branford that features organic, vegetarian and sustainable cuisine. Shadle, who also participates in USDA's Chefs Move to Schools program, conducted a cooking demonstration at the Branford High School cafeteria. For this event, Weber dedicated the dining center's Play Bowl Station to the Vegan Lunch, which featured vegetable lasagna or a vegetable fried brown rice.

The Branford event was a success, not only with students who overwhelmingly opted for the vegan lasagna, but it also garnered positive feedback from The Humane Society of the United States. "Tofu has been approved by the USDA for next year, with a requirement for beans in the new meal pattern," said Weber, who serves local produce whenever possible. "These offerings put Branford ahead of the curve with regards to adoption of this new requirement."

Originally planned as a one-day event, it is a step in the right direction for school menu reform. "With childhood obesity at the front of the nation's mind, Chartwells is hard at work to promote the core principles of healthy living," said Weber. "The investment in healthy eating is in and of itself the real benefit."

"We understand the impact that quality nutrition has on the learning process of our students," said Branford Schools Superintendent Hamlet Hernandez. "BPS is supportive of Chartwells and appreciative of Mr. Weber's work on this initiative."

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