Southwest Foodservice Excellence Pilots Plant-Based Meals Alongside Humane Society of the U.S.

SFE conducted a 4-week pilot of plant-based meals in 9 schools, diversifying student’s plates with inclusive options while driving sustainability goals.

Phoenix, Arizona — April 26, 2024 Southwest Foodservice Excellence, SFE, recently conducted a plant-based meal pilot program with the Humane Society of the United States, HSUS, trialing new meals in 9 schools across the country, ranging across grade levels and geographic locations.

SFE is aiming to increase plant-based offerings by 10% by 2025, building on the 35 plant-based recipes already utilized in school districts across the country. Through these efforts, SFE can meet the needs of students with different cultural backgrounds and dietary needs, as well as contribute to a more sustainable future.

Over the course of the pilot, SFE eliminated over 16,300 lbs. of GHG emissions by making just two plant-based swaps each week for each school – the equivalent of charging almost half a million smartphones.

In an effort to expand SFE’s commitment to provide healthy, diverse lunches for students, SFE collaborated with longtime partner HSUS for this program, learning from experts in plant-based nutrition and creating exciting new meals like the “Spectacular Sweet Potato Burrito” and the “Edamame Shaker Salad.” By sampling these meals through the pilot program, students can provide essential feedback, and SFE has seen increased interest from students once the suggestions are implemented.

The pilot program included several training sessions for SFE chefs, general managers and dietitians, focused on creating an inclusive menu for all students, as well as increasing the number of kids who would try plant-based meals during their week.

SFE Chief Executive Officer, Chef Monty Staggs, noted that,

As always, SFE starts with the best ingredients, sourcing locally whenever possible and partnering with local farmers across the country to deliver fresh foods for student meals. But, beyond our commitment to sourcing local ingredients, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to engage students in developing our menus. Through surveys and taste tests in this pilot, we have gathered important feedback from our students on their preferences for and likelihood to choose plant-based menu options.

HSUS Food Service Innovation Manager, Kate Jarvis, noted that,

We remain impressed with SFE’s commitment to offering a diverse selection of delicious plant-based meals that prioritizes the health and well-being of their students, the planet, and animals. We look forward continuing to partner with SFE and their schools, offering a variety of resources and support to ensure their plant-based initiatives are a success.

SFE is excited to continue finding new and exciting ways to deliver fresh-from-scratch meals for the students it serves, while providing important nutritional education and supporting student’s academic success. For SFE, a key component in developing custom menus for its school district partners is actively engaging students in taste tests and focus groups to truly bring flavors and recipes that they want to choose at school. SFE is enthusiastic about these results and looks forward to sampling new plant-based recipes in additional districts.


About Southwest Foodservice Excellence

Southwest Foodservice Excellence (SFE) is a leading provider of outsourced foodservices for K- 12 public schools. Founded in 2004 and based in Scottsdale, AZ, the company is dedicated to providing high quality, nutritious foods to students and school districts and providing the highest quality customer service. SFE serves over 180 school districts in 30 states. For more information, please visit    



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