Plant Forward

More Plants Please!

Why More Plants Please!

Chef Ann Foundation programming centers on supporting schools in developing and sustaining school food operations that serve healthy, fresh food made from scratch. More Plants Please! offers recipes, promotional materials, and resources designed to get more plant-based proteins into schools. Plant-based proteins like beans and tofu credit to the USDA meal pattern and are nutritious and delicious additions to school food menus. 

Why Have More Plant Forward Meals in Schools?

In the United States, more than 30 million students eat lunch every day. If schools begin to incorporate more plant forward meals into their operations, and students choose to eat those meals, the impact on the environment, student health, and school food finances could be huge. Because schools serve such a large population, serving one vegetarian or plant-based meal once a week or once a month is beneficial. Plant forward meals focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and reduced meat proteins to introduce students to a healthy diet at a young age. A diet focused on plants is also better for the environment, as most plants take fewer resources to produce than meats.

To support schools in offering more scratch-cooked options, focused on plants, we have developed new plant forward recipes that fit USDA meal requirements and have been tested in real school kitchens and tried by actual students. Educational and eye-catching marketing materials explain to school communities why this is so important and the impact it can have on both the environment and student health. Plant forward does not mean changing an entire meal program, but rather focusing on the inclusion of plant forward options that can have big results.

Getting Started

View, download, and use the recipes and menu cycles (K-5 Lunch, K-8 Lunch, 6-8 Lunch, & 9-12 Lunch), share the educational marketing materials, and get the facts on why more plants are healthier for our bodies, our planet, and our school food operations. You can also watch the recorded session of our webinar here.

Special Thanks to Friends of the Earth and Novato Unified School District for their support of More Plants Please!

How It Works

How to get More Plants into your School

More Plants Please! consists of two main resource areas for you to use in your school district to encourage more plant forward dishes at lunchtime: Recipes and Menu Cycles and Marketing and Promotional Materials. Together, these recipes, marketing materials, and resources provide what is needed to take the first steps towards a healthier student population and a healthier planet. 

Recipes and Menu Cycles 

We consider a recipe to be plant forward if it:

  • Is free of animal protein 
  • Is vegetarian 
  • Is a traditional meat-based recipe where some of the meat has been replaced with plant-based proteins that credit to the meal pattern

We compiled a complete list of the new recipes developed specifically for More Plants Please! in addition to existing plant forward recipes for you on the Recipes tab. These recipes include dishes like Chickpea Masala, Zucchini Boats, and Quinoa Burgers to introduce children to new and delicious menu items that help establish healthy eating habits with a positive environmental impact. These recipes are also combined to create six one-week plant forward menu cycles that still offer meat-based options but are focused on incorporating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and plant-based proteins into meal programs. 

Promotional Materials: 

To encourage students to eat more plants and try more plant-based meals, download and print large (24 in x 36 in) wall posters to hang in classrooms, hallways, and the lunchroom. These posters highlight both the health benefits and the positive environmental impacts of eating more plant forward meals.

To cultivate a plant forward eating community in and out of school, download and print two flyers that explain what plant forward means, why it’s a healthier way to eat, and how to do it. The take-home flyer for families includes ideas for making one-bowl plant forward dinners to get the whole family eating less meat and more vegetables, and the flyer for staff encourages plant forward appreciation, action, and support amongst your school faculty and staff members.

To priovide the rationale behind eating more plant forward meals and to provide a greater understanding of its benefits, we compiled an annotated list of links to research and news articles for you on the Resources and Tools tab.

Tools and Resources

Posters and Flyers 

Download and send these files to your local print shop so you can use them to promote eating plant forward because it's healthier for our bodies and better for our planet.

Water Consumption Impact

This poster is designed to show students how much water it takes to produce a meat-based lunch versus a plant forward one.

Can You Grow It? 

Encourage students to try foods at lunch that grow on a vine, tree or in the ground.

Water Consumption Impact

This poster is designed to show students how much water it takes to produce a plant forward lunch versus a meat-based lunch.

Meat Production Impact on Air Quality

This poster is designed to show students the impact that meat production has on air quality.

Eat Plants & Stay Healthy

This poster encourages students to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins.

How Much Water?

Use this poster to help explain the amount of water different sources of protein take to produce.

Now Serving: Plant Forward Meals

Use this flyer to help explain the importance of eating plant forward meals to staff.

Eat Plant Forward at Home!

Send this flyer home with students to show families easy ways to eat plant forward at home.

Research, Articles, and News

Check back for an updated list of research, articles, and news that supports and explains plant forward eating.

  • Meat of the Matter: Learn why insitutions could have a signifact envrionmental impact by serving more plant-based meals and how they can do it in this report from Friends of the Earth.
  • Value of Water Report 47: The Green, Grey, and Blue Water Footprint of Crops and Derived Crop Products: Complementary to report 48, this precursory report provides the findings from investigating the water required to produce a variety of crops. Wheat and rice rank highest and are mostly grown in India, China, and the U.S.
  • Value of Water Report 48: The Green, Grey, and Blue Water Footprint of Farm Animals and Animal Products: The authors of this report from the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education traced the water footprints of raising animals for food, from the feed they eat to the resources needed to process and package them. It then provides a comparison to other crops. The researchers conclude that if you are going to eat meat, it's best for the environment, particularly our water supply, to eat animals raised on grazing methods (as opposed to industrialized meat raising operations) because they require less feed, and therefore less water, to be raised.
  • Scaling up Healthy, Climate-Friendly School Food: Strategies for Success: Based on interviews with 33 school food professionals, this report from Friends of the Earth provides resources and numerous examples from 18 public school districts showcasing the climate benefits and strategies that school food visionaries are successfully deploying to serve more plant-forward foods on their lunch menus.
  • Scaling up Healthy, Climate-Friendly School Food Webinar: This webinar will give you a deeper understanding of the importance of implementing climate-friendly school foods on the menu. The webinar covers the following learning objectives: 1. Define climate-friendly food (what, why, how) 2.Understand how climate-friendly food can be applied in different school contexts 3.Understand viable policy actions.

Plant Forward Recipes

Plant Forward Recipes

Chef Ann Foundation tests all recipes on The Lunch Box in school kitchens and lunchrooms. Students have tasted and approved these recipes, so you can feel confident serving them in your lunchroom.

Scroll down to see the new More Plants Please! recipes in addition to recipes already on The Lunch Box that fit our plant forward criteria: free of animal protein, vegetarian, or a portion of the meat is replaced with plant-based proteins that credit to the meal pattern.

You can use the recipes individually or together in menu cycles that have already been built out. 

Plant Forward Continuum: 

The Plant Forward Continuum encourages schools to serve plant forward meals based on what works best for their staff, district and students. Schools can start slowly, beginning by reflecting on the existing menu mix, then strategically adding or adjusting recipes that move the overall menu mix along the continuum. Schools can find recipes that fall along each point of the continuum in the recipe section of The Lunch Box. 

How to Use

  • Each recipe has been analyzed for the USDA meal components; that information can be found on the “Food Groups/Meal Patterns” tab.
  • From each recipe page you can scale the recipe, save it as either a pdf or an Excel file to your computer, and view and save the nutrient analysis and the costing. The costing is based on Boulder Valley School District's procurement since they developed the recipes.  
  • To scale the recipe, change the “Standard Yield” number and click the “Scale” button. To return to the default standard batch size, click the “Reset” button.
  • Ingredient yield factors, where applicable, can be found at the top of the Recipe Instructions tab in “Pre-Preparation Instruction” fields where applicable.
  • The recipes are offered in their tested batch sizes. Although they are regularly used for meal counts in excess of 2,000, we recommend scaling batch sizes to be compatible with your equipment. Since seasonings are particularly affected by increased scaling, we suggest taste testing as you increase quantities.

New More Plants Please! Recipes

Bi Bim Bap Bowl K-8

Bi Bim Bap Bowl 9-12

Caprese Sliders

Chickpea Masala

Chile Relleno Casserole K-8

Chile Relleno Casserole 9-12

Greek Empanadas

Pineapple Fried Rice K-8

Pineapple Fried Rice 9-12

Quinoa Burger 

Spanakopita Grilled Cheese

Vegetable Lasagna K-8

Vegetable Lasagna 9-12

Veggie and Cheese Flatbread

Zucchini Boats

Existing Recipes 

Bean and Cheese Nachos K-8 

Bean and Cheese Nachos 9-12 

Black Bean and Corn Salad 

Black Bean Empanada 

Black Bean Empanada PK 

Black Bean Veggie Burger 

Burrito, Bean and Cheese 

Burrito, Bean and Cheese 1/2

Burrito, Chicken 

Cauliflower, Squash and Lentils 

Curried Chickpeas PK-8

Curried Chickpeas 9-12 

Enchilada, Cheese K-8 

Enchilada, Cheese 9-12


Hummus, 1 Quart Bulk 

Kashmiri Vegetable Tofu Stirfry PK  

Kashmiri Vegetable Tofu Stirfry K-8 

Kashmiri Vegetable Tofu Stirfry 9-12

Lentil Salad 

Lisa's Bean Salad 

Mediterranean Couscous, 1 Quart 

Mediterranean Couscous, 4 Quarts 

Pork Green Chili Burrito 

Quesadilla, Bean and Cheese K-8 

Quesadilla, Bean and Cheese 9-12 

Side Beans, Baked 

Side Beans, Refried Pinto 

Side Black Beans 

Sweet Chili Tofu PK-8 

Sweet Chili Tofu 9-12 

Sweet and Sour Tofu K-8

Sweet and Sour Tofu 9-12 

Sweet Potato Hummus PK 

Sweet Potato Hummus 

Taco Meat with Lentils 

Teriyaki Tofu Bowl 

Thai Tofu Curry PK-8 

Thai Tofu Curry 9-12 

Three Bean Salad 

Tofu, Crispy K-8 

Tofu, Crispy 9-12 

Vegetable Alfredo Pasta PK-8

Vegetable Alfredo Pasta 9-12 

Vegetable Lo Mein 

Learnings from the Field

For fruit and vegetable nutrition education activities check out the Learnings from the Field section of The Lunch Box! 

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