U.S. News

California set to serve healthy, 'ethical' food to prisoners

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill requiring hospitals, healthcare facilities and prisons to offer plant-based meals, saying that even inmates deserve to have healthy and “ethical” meal choices.

The legislation, SB 1138, which passed overwhelmingly, allows patients and prisoners to choose a non-meat option at every meal, regardless of whether they are doing so for health, environmental or personal reasons.

The measure, sponsored by state Senator Nancy Skinner, a Democrat from Berkeley, still requires approval from Governor Jerry Brown to become law. Brown has not said whether he will sign the bill.

The bill would result in “minor costs to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to prepare a plan to implement the provision of plant-base meals on an overall cost-neutral basis,” according to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

“By guaranteeing access to plant-based food, SB 1138 respects the health, ethical and diet choices of those in hospitals or other institutions who don’t have the option to prepare their own meals,” Skinner said in a written statement.

The lawmaker said serving plant-based meals was also good for the environment, citing a 2014 study in the journal Climatic Change that vegetarian diets were associated with a reduction in food-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Phil Berlowitz