Sodexo Launches Massive Expansion of DefaultVeg Pilot, Making Plant-Based Meal Service a Norm at Campus Eateries Across USA

DefaultVeg expansion to almost 400 campuses serving 1 million students coincides with a newly published study showing that consistently offering plant-based meals as the default option is highly effective at encouraging students to choose them, cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Washington, D.C.–(Newsfile Corp. – March 14, 2024) –  Sodexo, one of the world’s largest foodservice companies, announced today that it has massively expanded its use of the DefaultVeg strategy at college dining halls. This strategy, first piloted in all-you-can-eat university dining halls by Sodexo in partnership with the Better Food Foundation and Food for Climate League, uses behavioral nudges to encourage plant-based diet change. It is now consistently embedded in the menu design at Sodexo dining halls at nearly 400 university and college campuses across the USA. At these locations, unless the school actively opts out, every dining hall will include two stations that encourage students to choose plant-based meals: one that is entirely plant-based and one that alternates plant-based and animal-based meals as the main offering each day. Collectively, the dining halls at these schools serve approximately 1 million students every day.

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The expansion comes alongside the release of a newly published peer-reviewed study that took place at Sodexo-run campus dining halls, which concluded that offering plant-based meals as the default can preserve student choice while encouraging students to choose those meals more often. The study, authored by Boston College researchers Joel Ginn and Gregg Sparkman, is published in the February issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology, and was conducted by Food for Climate League, with support from the Better Food Foundation.

The study conducted randomized controlled trials during the DefaultVeg pilot at three universities-Tulane University, Lehigh University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – with all-you-care-to-eat Sodexo dining halls. These dining halls alternated between plant-based and meat-based dishes as the default option at one hot entree station. Students could still request animal-based dishes on any day if they preferred. During this study, the average rate of students choosing plant-based dishes increased by 58.3 percent on plant-based default days, absent any other changes to the dining experience.

“The release of this peer-reviewed study validates that this type of intervention in all-you-care-to-eat dining really works,” said Eve Turow-Paul, Founder & Executive Director of the Food for Climate League . “It’s the result of a great collaborative effort, and we look forward to the next phase of this work-developing toolkits and training to help even more campuses implement their own successful plant-forward menus.”

“The ongoing collaboration with the Better Food Foundation has provided significant value, offering enhanced insights into the effects of plant-based defaults in campus settings,” said Lisa Feldman, Sr. Director of Culinary, Menu Systems & Impact Strategy, Sodexo North America. “Ultimately, the partnership has played a pivotal role in helping Sodexo to strategically place plant-based items on menus, ensuring students have meaningful and diverse choices.”

“DefaultVeg is proving that plant-based eating is both popular and powerful with Gen Z,” said Jennifer Channin, Executive Director of the Better Food Foundation. “Sodexo’s expansion of this strategy is going to have a real impact on the health of students and the planet. And this new, rigorous study demonstrates that most students happily choose plant-based meals over other options when we make the choice easy and delicious. The DefaultVeg strategy helps universities catch up with the expectations of today’s students by providing sustainable, inclusive, and ethically produced food. We hope to see Sodexo expand this strategy further and incorporate even stronger plant-based nudges into all the ways they are serving food on campuses.”

A separate report on the same pilot program, produced by Food for Climate League and the Better Food Foundation, suggested even more potential benefit for institutions that follow this strategy consistently. That report calculated that the two universities which implemented the plant-based default strategy most consistently during the pilot program saw an astonishing 150 percent increase in the rate of students choosing plant-based meals, resulting in up to 81.5 percent of students choosing plant-based dishes. Further, the shift led to a 23.6 percent drop in the greenhouse gas emissions attributed to food service across the three schools.

Sodexo’s plant-based dishes were popular with students, and participants in the pilot reported no statistically significant change in student satisfaction. Sample dishes included Plant Carnitas Soft Tacos, Veggie Burrito Bowl, Lentil Patty and Mushroom Valencia, Jerk Plant Shreds Jambalaya, and Roasted Sesame Ginger Tofu Tikka Masala. Sodexo has committed to serving 50 percent plant-based meals at its campuses by 2025.

The Better Food Foundation’s DefaultVeg strategy has demonstrated the growing appeal of plant-based eating for American diners across the country, particularly within Gen Z. The campaign has already transformed food in nearly 100 university departments and campus coffee shops, including at Harvard, Stanford, and Pomona College. Better Food Foundation supports students, staff and leaders at universities and other institutions to shift how food is served. An organization incubated by Better Food Foundation, Greener by Default, provides consulting to providers seeking to implement plant-based nudges.

To read the peer-reviewed study in full, visit the Journal of Environmental Psychology at this link, or to schedule an interview, contact


About Better Food Foundation

The Better Food Foundation (BFF) is an action tank that incubates novel strategies for diet change. BFF is both research-informed and action-driven, aims to accelerate the shifts to plant-centered eating that is already taking place in the world, and seeks to nudge people and institutions to adopt new norms that center plant-based foods in our diets and institutions.

About Food for Climate League

Food for Climate League is a trailblazing, female-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to make climate-smart food choices the norm. Climate-smart food culture is plant-forward, regenerative, and respectful of resources; it celebrates diversity, improves human nutrition, connects communities, is affordable and accessible to all, and preserves our shared planet. FCL creates toolkits, programs, and campaigns-founded in original behavioral science research-that connect sustainable food culture to people’s diverse needs, values, and cultures. In doing so, we position climate-smart food choices as accessible, enticing, and culturally relevant.

About Sodexo
Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 45 countries. Sodexo specializes in sustainable food service and valued experiences, in all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Puerto Rico and Guam, at every moment in life: learn, work, heal and play. Additionally, the company indirectly supports additional jobs through its annual purchases of goods and services from small to large businesses. Sodexo North America is committed to meeting the challenges of everyday life with a dual goal: to improve the quality of life of our employees and those we serve, and contribute to the economic, social and environmental progress in the communities where we operate. Our purpose is to create a better everyday for everyone to build a better life for all.

Media Contact:
Kwentoria Williams on behalf of Better Food Foundation

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