Prisons and healthcare facilities will soon offer plant-based options. Lawmakers say it won't cost too much more.
Credit: Jennifer Causey

A new bill has passed in California requiring hospitals, healthcare facilities, and state prisons to offer plant-based meals to those who wish to abide by vegan and vegetarian diets. Lawmakers, especially the bill's author, Senator Nancy Skinner, argued that even imprisoned individuals deserve to enjoy healthy and "ethical" meal choices, according to a Reuters report.

The bill, officially known as SB 1138, passed overwhelmingly among California's State Assembly earlier this week—it will appear before California's Governor Jerry Brown soon before he considers signing it into law. It allows patients and prisoners to eat a non-meat option at every meal, whether they're following a vegan diet or not.

According to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, there would be "minor costs to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to prepare a plan to implement the provision of plant-based meals on an overall cost-neutral basis," Reuters reports.

“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 wrote in a statement.

New vegan items now available in your area:

Credit: Getty: ThitareeSarmkasat

Skinner also argued that serving more plant-based meals would have a positive effect on environmental efforts, pointing to a 2014 study in the journal Climatic Change that claims vegetarian diets are linked to reduced greenhouse gas emissions overall.

“Offering plant-based meal options is a great way to give people healthy choices and reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions,” Skinner writes. “But most importantly, I want to make sure we’re being fair and giving those in institutional settings food options that meet their individual needs.”

While an existing law already provides vegetarian-based meals for inmates in California's state prisons, vegan meals aren't always available, NowThis reports. Nearly 12,000, out of the 129,000 inmates serving time currently, choose to receive some form of a special meal.