Families moving to a more plant-based diet will be curious to learn that Impossible Foods has received the USDA's Child Nutrition label for its Impossible burger. This label shows that the product meets requirements for main dish items offered in school cafeterias. As part of a pilot program, the brand is currently shipping out free cases of Impossible burgers and a bulk "ground" product to school districts in Washington, Oklahoma and California. Soon, children in these areas will be able to try items like Impossible Frito pie, Impossible street tacos and spaghetti with Impossible meat sauce.
"Making Impossible™ products available everywhere people consume meat, which for kids often includes schools, is key to the mission of the company," said Pat Brown, CEO and Founder of Impossible Foods, in a press release on their website. "Schools not only play a role in shaping children's dietary patterns, they play an important role in providing early education about climate change and its root causes. We are thrilled to be partnering with K-12 school districts across the country to lower barriers to access our plant-based meat for this change-making generation."
Impossible Food conducted a survey of 1,200 K-12 students and found the vast majority of kids were aware of climate change and that 7 in 10 children felt they had a power to make a difference.
For anyone still wondering how climate change is linked to food, and what exactly IS an Impossible Burger anyway, let's break it down:
Impossible Burgers and the Environmental Factor
While we know Impossible faux meat products provide a meat-alternative for those interested in following a more plant-based diet, the environmental impact is important, too. Products like Impossible Foods require fewer resources like land and water to produce than meat. Raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gases, which can cause global warming. While U.S. beef production accounts for about 3 percent of the country's emissions, transportation and electricity combined account for 56 percent of the country's emissions. As children learn about how to prevent climate change, it's important for them to understand that food is one piece of this complex puzzle.
In continuing to do their part, Impossible Foods is also creating an unbranded curriculum program for schools to get kids engaged in the science of food and understand how diet relates to climate change.
Impossible Burger Ingredients and Nutrition
Impossible burgers do not contain cholesterol like beef does, and per Harvard Health Publishing, "adds vitamins and minerals found in animal proteins — like vitamin B12 and zinc — in amounts equal to (and in some cases, greater than) both red meat and poultry."
That said, although Impossible burgers are "plant-based", they are still a fairly processed product, with a base of soy protein combined with ingredients like binders, oils, flavorings, and (natural) colorings.
Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Maternal Child Health Expert, tells Motherly, "Meat-alternative options are becoming more readily available, which is great news for those looking to incorporate more plant-based foods into their lives. What's helpful for our children to understand who may be exposed to more of these options in their school cafeteria is that one food is not inherently better than the other. It's easy to fall into a 'good' vs. 'bad' food mentality, which can make food more chaotic and complicated than it needs to be. Meat alternative burgers can provide a great option for students who may not eat traditional meat burgers. They can also provide some added fiber and be a good source of protein and micronutrients. However, stacked against animal-based burgers, meatless options tend to be higher in sodium and comparable, fat and calorie-wise. That being said, diversity in our diet is what can help optimize our nutrition the most. When possible, switching up food sources can help us get more of the nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy. For many students, school lunches provide a bulk of their daily nutrition. So trying different options from the foods available rather than eating the same thing repeatedly can be favorably, from a nutrition standpoint."
As with so many things, but certainly when it comes to diet, moderation is key. As far as school cafeteria food goes, I think it's safe to say, the more options the better, especially when for some low-income children, school food is where they receive their meals for the day.
If Impossible Foods comes to your child's school, do you think they will try this lunch option?