California Legislation Would Mandate Plant-Based Options In Hospitals, Prisons

Bill Sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Social Compassion in Legislation

CALIFORNIA: SB 1138, introduced in the California State Legislature by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), would require licensed California health care facilities and state prisons to make available plant-based meal options containing no animal products or by-products, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy, or eggs. The bill is sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Social Compassion in Legislation.


“Everyone in the state of California deserves the same access to nutritious food,” says California Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley). “By ensuring that our hospitals and our prisons provide a plant-based meal option, SB 1138 will help reduce chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.”

In its position paper on vegetarian diets, co-authored by Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics—the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals—stated that “vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases,” including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity.

In June 2017, the American Medical Association passed a Healthy Food Options in Hospitals resolution that calls on U.S. hospitals to improve the health of patients, staff, and visitors by providing plant-based meals.

“Plant-based foods are acceptable to most world religions and ethical schools, as well posing fewer problems for people with common food sensitivities like egg and dairy,” says Judie Mancuso, founder and president of Social Compassion in Legislation. “For these reasons, plant-based options should be provided and promoted in all public institutions, including hospitals and prisons.”

Section 2084 of the California Penal Code states that “the department shall provide each prisoner … with sufficient plain and wholesome food of such variety as may be most conducive to good health.” While “vegetarian meals shall be available at all institutions upon request for inmates with any religious, personal, or ethical dietary need” under existing California regulations, these meals are not strictly plant-based, often containing milk or egg products.

“I’m glad to see California protecting the health of patients and prisoners by making plant-based options a priority,” says Levin.