Impossible Foods, which recently partnered with major food supplier OSI Group, is working hard to increase awareness and interest in meatless foods for the youngest generation. Pat Brown, the CEO of Impossible Foods, has worked to educate Gen Z about plant-based foods since 2014.
Children’s Nutrition and Environmental Causes
Brown worked as a scientist for and professor of biochemistry for many years before launching Impossible Foods, and served as a pediatrician before that. He saw Impossible Foods as an opportunity to combine his dual passions: science and teaching children. Brown has also long been interested in finding ways to create food without animal agriculture and teaching children that what they put on their plates matters, including how it impacts the environment.
Pat Brown and Jessica Appelgren, the Vice President of Communications for Impossible Foods, have been collaborating and teaching kids about the benefits of plant-based eating for many years. Appelgren stated recently that one person can have a profound impact on the environment; whether that is positive or negative, is up to us. Children, who often have little control over their lives, can help educate their parents and grandparents about the relationship between what they choose to eat and the health of the planet.
Impossible Foods Creates Earth Day Lesson for School Children
Earth Day in April 2021 presented an ideal opportunity for Impossible Foods to reach out and engage kids about the impact of consuming animal products. The company designed and distributed a pamphlet called The Birds and the Trees that teaches them how to talk to their parents and other adults about the relationship between climate change and traditional meat consumption.
Several weeks later, the company issued a research report outlining how much children in Generation Z already know about global warming. Impossible Foods reached out to school kids once again to let them know what actions they could take to slow the global warming crisis.
Impossible Foods’ Products Receive Child Nutrition Label
The Department of Agriculture presented Impossible Foods with the Child Nutrition Label in May 2021 for its alternative hamburger and sausage products. Receiving this designation means that a product has passed a rigorous process to ensure that it is nutritionally sound. Food products bearing a Child Nutrition Label are easier for school cafeteria staff to include on the menu.
According to Appelgren, the Child Nutrition Label also opens a new market for Impossible Foods and OSI Group. She is quick to point out that working with school cafeterias would not necessarily result in higher profits for the company, but it is something that leadership feels good about doing. Bringing the company’s foods into schools also goes along with its mission of educating young people about global warming concerns.
Brown has gone on record as saying his biggest goal is to put the animal-based meat industry out of business by 2035. That goal has driven many of the company’s decisions since it launched in 2011.
Appelgren echoed Brown’s comments when she stated that reaching the goal of meat-free eating has been behind the push by Impossible Foods to get its products into school cafeterias. She and the rest of the company have been encouraged by those school districts where students or local suppliers grow the all food that is served there. At the same time, she acknowledged that switching to this type of menu would present some challenging logistics for many schools. They would need to find a place to grow food served in the school cafeteria, something that only a few have been able to achieve so far.
Besides creating garden space to grow food, schools would need to introduce a curriculum that discusses the process and implications of growing and harvesting food. Cafeteria personnel would need to change menus to incorporate the use of the school’s own produce.
Appelgren also sees the necessity of changing how such schools would store, display, and sell food as a challenge. However, she feels these challenges are surmountable and necessary. Schools getting onboard with plant-based meat is a simple way for students and staff to become more environmentally aware and responsible, since most plant-based meat products can easily be substituted for the animal-derived versions they have already been serving.
OSI Group and the Next Generation
Nicole Johnson-Hoffman, chief sustainability officer and senior vice president of OSI Group, is a strong champion for Impossible Foods. She’s spent years in the meat industry, and she’s embraced the call to fight climate change. OSI Group wants to see sustainability on a grand scale, and there are few better ways to accomplish this than getting young people involved.
When children understand that their choices can have big consequences for the world, they become more responsible citizens and leaders. OSI Group fully supports the approach of Impossible Foods. By asking children to sit down and have a serious talk with their parents, it’s a bit of a role reversal that can help Gen Z feel more empowered.
OSI Group is also known for its efforts in global sustainability in the traditional beef supply. One of its most recent accomplishments is inspiring farmers and ranchers to prioritize rotational grazing practices, which can reduce the carbon footprint of these groups while protecting soil health at the same time.
As OSI Group’s leadership team looks to the future, the goal is to incorporate as many sustainable practices as possible. By embracing its partnership with Impossible Foods, OSI is taking more strides to prepare for the future. No matter what is in store for the food industry, OSI Group and Impossible Foods are paving the way for a more sustainable world.
Image Credits: Sarah Stierch