Israel, facing a childhood obesity crisis, will be serving its school students vegan burgers in an attempt to slash obesity rates in half.
According to the World Obesity Federation, 28.8 percent of Israeli children under the age of 18 are overweight, with 12.6% of the country’s children being classified as obese, second only to the United States.
Rilbite, an Israeli vegan meat brand that says its product is comparable to meat in taste and texture, will be served in local schools to fight obesity.
According to Rilbite co-founder Itai Farkas, the company is participating in the 2030 Project, which aims to cut childhood obesity rates by 50% by 2030.
“Our product was chosen to be used by the launch schools in Israel. We are the only vegan product that qualifies to be used in Israel in children’s foodservice,” said Farkas.
He told FoodBev that the vegan burger was able to qualify for the program because it is packed with protein.
“Because we have lots of protein inside the Rilbite, we can give it to kindergarten kids and they can have a small amount, and still have enough protein by law – in Israel, we have to give them 15g of protein each day,” Farkas stated.
“So actually two small Rilbite balls with a bit of Bolognese sauce or half a patty is enough for the kids.”
Beginning in 2016, the Israel Ministry of Health made it imperative for all state schools to serve students a minimum of one vegetarian meal per week.
However, some schools have found it challenging to provide meat-free meals that are both tasty and nutritious, and Rilbite believes they can change that.
Made out of plant ingredients like peas, tomatoes and lentils, Rilbite’s vegan minced meat burgers are said to provide a similar taste and texture to meat with only a fraction of the calories at just 146.
The World Health Organization found that about 61% of Israeli adults 20 or over are overweight, and more than 26% are obese.
Currently, about 1 million of the country’s roughly 8.5 million people are diabetic and by 2030, 2 million people are expected to either be diabetic or pre-diabetic, according to Jerusalem Post.
The country is now doing what it can to reverse this trend by encouraging healthy eating habits from an early age.
According to Dr. Gal Dubnov-Raz of the Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer, the obesity epidemic can be slowed down by starting young.
“Most adults who today are obese weren’t obese children, so it proves that this is a phenomenon that can be stopped,” said Dubnov-Raz.
As for Rilbite, the company hopes to use their vegan burgers to keep kids in other parts of the globe healthy as well.
“We believe that afterwards we will go seeking for other countries that want to feed their kids in a great way,” said Farkas.
Rilbite is also aiming to disrupt the meat industry with their affordably-priced and healthy plant-based burgers.