MUSE School CA in Calabasas plans to become the first school in the United States to serve entirely plant-based lunches.
The private school was founded in 2006 by environmental activist and actress Suzy Amis Cameron – wife of director James Cameron – and her sister, Rebecca Amis.
MUSE, which uses individual and passion-based learning, has always had an environmental focus with students encouraged to “live consciously within themselves” and care for the planet. This year, they added a high school program.
Kayla Webb, former executive chef at a spa resort in San Diego, joined MUSE nearly three years ago. At the time, the school was serving organic meat every day.
“Each year since I’ve been here, we’ve eliminated one or two days of meat to the point where now we’re just serving one meat meal a week, and starting next year, it’s going to be completely plant-based eating,” she said.
The meals do not include milk or soy products, and although the lunches are vegan-friendly, school leaders prefer the term “plant-based.”
“Vegan is really an entire lifestyle choice people make,” Webb said. “For our purposes, we’re just trying to get kids to focus on what they’re eating at school and how that can have an impact on the environment.”
Webb said they held meetings with parents to discuss the transition to plant-based meals. Some parents have adopted the vegan lifestyle at home while others have not.
Giving up lunch favorites like chicken nuggets has not been easy for all the kids, but Webb said the addition of a salad bar has helped. Students are able to choose which items they want. And instead of milk or soda, they serve water and tea for drinks.
Including students and staff members, there are 175 people on two campuses.
“By 175 people eating one meal a day, we have begun to reduce our carbon footprint by over half a ton per person, which over a nine month period, is the equivalent of taking 25 cars off the road which would have driven 300,000 miles,” said Dr. Reese Halter, chair of mathematics and science at MUSE.
The campus, located at the edge of the Santa Monica Mountains, has several gardens and 160 raised boxes for planting. Paul Hudak, the school gardener, leads their seed-to-table program where students learn gardening skills and the economics of food production. The grow lettuce, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables. By the end of the year, they hope to produce at least half the food served during lunch.
“This is the most exciting time to be alive on planet Earth spearheading change through our children,” Halter said.