By Susie Steimle

(KPIX 5) — A new California law is changing the menu at state prisons, with inmates now allowed to request vegan meals. The state is the first in the nation to offer inmates an all-vegan menu.

State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) sponsored the bill that was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this week.

“We really want people to be able to have the meal option of their religious, ethical or environmental choice or health choice, and we want to make sure our facilities honor that,” said Skinner.

It’s not just prison inmates. The bill requires vegan options at all residential facilities from nursing homes to hospitals. Skinner said inmates were writing her office saying eating vegan meant a scraps-only diet.

“So, maybe you were left to eating only a piece of bread or some white rice, and we really – that’s not appropriate,” said Skinner.

There are nearly 127,000 inmates currently housed at 35 prisons statewide. Each facility is currently required to offer vegetarian meal or a religious meal.

Both the standard and vegetarian meals cost $3 per person per day. The religious meal costs the state $8 per person. The law requires the vegan meal must be cost neutral.

Skinner’s bill sailed smoothly through the legislature, facing no opposition the entire time in the state Senate or Assembly.

“I was very impressed with how much unanimous support on both sides of the aisle, including the bill, SB 1138, being on the consent calendar in some cases,” said Skinner.

It is now up to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to implement the new vegan options at its facilities statewide. The mandate goes into effect in January.

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