Los Angeles County Passes Law to Make All Departmental Food Purchases Plant-Based

5 Mins Read

Los Angeles County has passed a motion to make all departmental food purchases plant-based by default, citing the environmental and human health benefits of vegan diets.

US politicians Lindsey Horvath and Hilda Solis have spearheaded a successful effort to make it mandatory for all purchase orders from Los Angeles County departments to be plant-based.

Passed yesterday, the new law requires that all new contracts between foodservice providers and county departments – including Parks and Recreation, Health Services and Public Works – follow default plant-based policies. The move is aimed at mitigating the climate and public health impacts linked with the county’s food purchases.

“In order to reduce emissions from our food system, changes must be made from producers to consumers,” reads the legislation. “Transforming the county’s food procurement policies presents a unique opportunity to advance health outcomes, address climate change, and meet economic goals.”

Leah Garcés, CEO and president of Mercy For Animals (which worked closely with Horvath’s office to develop the policy), called it a “huge win”. “As more Americans choose plant-based food for reasons such as health, environmental protection, and animal welfare, public purchasing must reflect this shift,” she noted.

Championing health and climate benefits in line with sustainability plans

los angeles county plant based
Courtesy: Rudisill/iStockPhoto

The motion highlights how plant-based food has a much lighter impact on the environment. Research has shown that veganism can lower emissions, water pollution and land use by 75% compared to meat-rich diets. In fact, meat accounts for 60% of the food system’s total emissions, a number twice as high as that of plant-based foods. Plus, even just swapping half of our meat and dairy intake with vegan alternatives can cut emissions by 31%, halt deforestation and reduce undernourishment by 3.6%.

The Los Angeles County supervisors also outline the health benefits of vegan diets, which have been shown to reduce the risk of obesity, which plagues over a third of Americans. Eating plants has been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease too, which is the leading cause of death in the US, while processed red meat is associated with a higher likelihood of developing these conditions. Additionally, plant-based diets and lower meat consumption have been proven to reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes.

It’s benefits like these that made it vital for Los Angeles County – the most populous in the US – to promote plant-based consumption. The move is in line with the county’s sustainability plan, which underlines the need to support the “consumption of plant-based foods (such as beans and grains) over more land- and resource-intensive animal products (such as meat)”.

Action 134 of the plan reads: “Promote plant-based menu options through nutrition and food procurement policies in food service settings such as county facilities, hospitals, higher learning institutions, school districts, jails, and other food settings.”

A 2018 report from the Department of Public Health revealed that there were 111 foodservice contracts with 15 Los Angeles County departments that involved offering, selling or distributing food and beverages – this indicates the significant impact the new law stands to make. And it comes with public support: a recent survey found that 79% of respondents supported legislation encouraging plant-based food purchases with taxpayer dollars, and specifically for Los Angeles County, 82.2% felt it should pass such a legislation.

Los Angeles County’s plant-based push comes amid backlash elsewhere

vegan catering
Courtesy: AI-Generated Image via Canva

The law directs the Department of Public Health to review its nutritional standards and incorporate evidence-based recommendations on purchasing, selling and serving more plant-based foods, to help integrate these in foodservice proposals and contracts.

It asks multiple departments to suggest ways to increase interest and participation in plant-based eating in the county, which includes providing incentives. Los Angeles County departments will additionally take steps to measure the carbon footprint of their food purchases, with recommendations to reduce the consumption of animal-derived foods and cut food waste, alongside potential targets to ramp up plant-based food purchasing in the county.

The motion noted how other US cities have implemented policies to promote plant-based food. Los Angeles’ own City Council became the largest in the US to adopt the Plant Based Treaty in October 2022. And a year earlier, the Berkeley City Council voted to divert half of its spending from animal-based to plant-based foods by 2024, with the goal of converting that into 100% and a pledge towards promoting vegan diets to tackle climate change.

The University of California, Los Angeles Health increased its plant-based food procurement for students and patients too. It signed on to the Cool Food Pledge as well, which commits to reducing food-related GHG emissions by 25% by 2030, in alignment with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

New York City has also been at the forefront of this shift, pushing plant-based meals into schools, hospitals and even jails. Public schools have Plant-Powered Fridays, jails have vegan meals for lunch or dinner at least one day a week, and as 11 of its public hospitals offer plant-based dishes as a primary option for inpatients – the latter has reduced both costs and food-related emissions by 36% since being implemented in January 2023, while patient satisfaction for the menu has jumped to more than 90%.

In Maryland, the city of Baltimore officially proclaimed January as the month of Veganuary earlier this year, while Austin, Texas declared January 2024 as Plant-Based for the Planet Month. However, the policies of the state of Texas are contradictory, with governor Greg Abbott signing a bill requiring clear labelling of plant-based and cultivated meat, seafood and egg products.

It’s part of a wider movement to discredit alternative protein, especially cultivated meat, in an election year. Nebraska’s Real MEAT Act, for example, would mandate the word “imitation” on alternative protein if passed, and Arizona’s HB 2244 would make it illegal to “intentionally misbrand or misrepresent” an alternative meat product as meat. Likewise, Wisconsin has proposed two bills against alternative protein, one of which put restrictions on the labelling of plant-based milk.

It makes Los Angeles County’s legislation all the more important. “Mercy For Animals greatly appreciates supervisors Horvath and Solis for sponsoring this policy change and the county’s commitment to providing healthy plant-based options to residents who benefit from county food programmes,” said Garcés. “We look forward to working with LA County in implementing this policy.”


  • Anay Mridul

    Anay is Green Queen's resident news reporter. Originally from India, he worked as a vegan food writer and editor in London, and is now travelling and reporting from across Asia. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, food tech, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford comma.

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