LOS ANGELES — Don Lee Farms, a supplier of protein products to the School Lunch Program, is introducing plant-based alternatives to chicken nuggets and breaded chicken patties. The items will launch prior to the 2019 school year and will be available for schools to purchase beginning in the summer.

“We have years of experience turning proteins from plants into breakthrough items,” said Donald Goodman, president of Don Lee Farms. “We also know how to create the experience meat eaters expect from plant-based alternatives. We combined those core competencies with our leading position in meat proteins in the School Lunch Program.

“Since I started making proteins for schools in the early 1980s, we have had a firm understanding of how hard it is for schools to meet the demands of ever-changing nutrition requirements, kids’ expectations and restricted budgets. To meet those challenges, we came up with a solution to each one. The biggest hurdle was price. Instead of waiting for pricing to come down, we used our market position, buying power and our leadership in innovation to make chickenless items a better value than traditional nuggets. In most cases, our price for these items are at or below what chicken nuggets cost schools today.”

Don Lee Farms said the price is projected to drop further as more school districts choose plant-based proteins over meat proteins for environmental and health reasons.

“Putting aside the environmental and health benefits, which are incredible, these products are just as delicious as their meat-based equivalents,” said Danny Goodman, head of development for Don Lee Farms. “The idea that we are winning over kids who regularly eat and love traditional chicken nuggets with our new plant-based chickenless items, is really the breakthrough.

“We foresee a near future where plant-based nuggets will replace the need for schools to source chicken to make nuggets. For the first time, the option is now a reality starting in the 2019 school year.”

Established in 1982, Don Lee Farms is a family-owned manufacturer and supplier of organic and conventional food products for retail, club, food service and school food service channels. The company is a producer of organic veggie burgers.