Fresh calls for compulsory meat-free school meals
The UK government should introduce compulsory meat-free schools meals every week to help tackle climate change and improve diets, the Soil Association charity has argued.
Current government guidelines recommend a non-mandatory weekly meat-free day, but few schools are thought to do it, and options are often restricted to less healthy options like cheese-laden pasta or pizza.
By introducing more beans and pulses, the Soil Association said a compulsory plant-based day would make menus more climate-friendly and help tackle obesity by increasing fibre intake.
This comes after the Department for Education (DfE) opened a review of its School Food Standards for all state-funded schools earlier this month.
“The current, non-compulsory advice for a meat-free day is too weak,” the Soil Association’s head of policy for food and health, Rob Percival, said.
“We know children would benefit nutritionally from eating more beans, pulses, and plant-based proteins and the climate would also benefit – we should all be eating less and better meat.”
The Soil Association said schools need more support and instruction to deliver sustainable meals, particularly since a UN report argued that the world has only until 2030 to avoid uncontrollable climate change.
And this is thought to have considerable support after approximately 1.4 million students skipped school in March to protest government inaction on the environment.
The DfE convened an expert panel to review its food standards on 7 May 2019, which includes Public Health England, and is expected to meet throughout the year.
Percival highlighted how the Soil Association’s Food for Life scheme, which encourages schools to introduce meat-free days on menus, shows that change is possible.
“Leading Food for Life schools are already showing that it is possible to serve children healthy plant-based meals, with the cost saving used to ‘trade-up’ to higher-welfare and more sustainable meat for the rest of the week,” he said.
“It’s time the government caught up.”
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Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM