In a bid to improve student health across the nation, UK primary schools have committed to serving 3.1 million meatless meals within the next 12 months.
The major change is part of the nonprofit organisation ProVeg UK’s School Plates programme, which works with schools and catering companies to improve school menus. Since summer, 110 primary schools have collaborated with ProVeg to create the new school dinner menus. Among the changes are compulsory Meat-Free Mondays and daily meatless options. Descriptions of menu items are also being altered, worded to encourage students to opt for the veggie choices. ProVeg also aims to have all processed red meat removed from menus.
The organisation believes that schools – specifically, school canteens – are the ideal forum for young people to learn about healthy, sustainable diets. It says, “Schools can play an integral role in encouraging their pupils to establish healthy eating habits from early on and the School Plates programme is the perfect starting point.”
Jimmy Pierson, the Director of ProVeg UK, further promoted the project: “We are enthusiastic cheerleaders for vegetables; not the over-boiled cabbage and the undercooked potato we have all suffered at some point but the wealth and richness of the edible plant world.” He also raved about the many benefits, saying, “eating more plants is good for us now, builds long-term healthy eating patterns which can spare us the nation’s most common ailments, protects our planet and its resources and – crucially – is cheaper, too.”
Dr. Melanie Joy, the co-founder of ProVeg International, summarised, “If we could enhance pupils’ health, help protect them from killer diseases in the long term, reduce our impact on the environment and save you money all at the same time, why wouldn’t we?”
Other schools across the globe are also realising the benefits of plant-based meals. In 2017, all 1,200 public schools in New York City launched an initiative to provide one vegan school lunch option daily, and 15 Brooklyn schools adopted a Meatless Monday program. The Rotorua’s Tiaki Early Learning Centre in New Zealand even won a National Commission for UNESCO Award for Global Citizenship Education for its fully vegan menu.
ProVeg UK accepting more schools and local authorities onto their School Plates programme on an ongoing basis.
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