PLANT-BASED FOR THE PLANET

The best and easiest way to help children to eat more vegetables, reduce climate emissions, and save money is by introducing more plant-based days. It’s also a recommendation in the current version of the School Food Standards, to “encourage all children to have a meat-free day each week, using alternatives such as pulses, soya mince, tofu and Quorn”.

The School Food Standards currently allow for up to two meat-free days each week. We are working with the Department for Education to update the standards but, in the meantime, this is what we aim for with all of our School Plates partners. And so far, these days have been incredibly successful! We recommend that our partners theme them around the environment and climate change, such as “Save the Planet Days” instead of the typical “Meat-free Mondays” as this implies something is missing from a dish. Additionally, we like to switch these days around to normalise the idea of eating healthier, more sustainable food on any day of the week. 

HEALTHY, INCLUSIVE, ECO-FRIENDLY RECIPES

We all know that whole plant-based foods are fantastic for our health. In fact, all plants are superheroes! They’re packed full of nutrients and fibre, are lower in fat and calories than animal-based products, and they lower the risk of chronic diseases. 

Our School Plates recipes are packed full of nutrition, matching meat-based dishes in terms of protein content, are lower in saturated fat, and contain more fibre and nutrients to keep children healthy, happy and better able to concentrate at school

Plant-based foods are suitable for everyone, regardless of faith or dietary requirements (except some specific allergies, of course). Kosher certification allows that: “All products that grow in the soil or on plants, bushes, or trees, are kosher”30, while fruits and vegetables are also considered halal. Not only does our School Plates programme save time and money by accommodating a wide range of diets, but more importantly, it helps to ensure that no one feels left out or different. If the same meal is available to all, it reduces the likelihood of discrimination and bullying of minority groups around meal times. 

Not only are our recipes healthy and delicious, but they’re also environmentally friendly. They have a far lower carbon-rating than meat-based school meals, as they do not rely on intensive animal agriculture, which contributes to at least 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

MENU CONSULTATION: LANGUAGE AND POSITIONING

Through our menu support services, we make sure that the same effort is put into selling plant-based and meat-free school meals as their meat-based counterparts.

So often we see meat-based dishes described beautifully, with names that accentuate flavour, texture, provenance, and key ingredients. For example, we might see: Sri Lankan Aromatic Chicken Masala up against a vegetarian version of the same dish, simply called a Veg Curry. We don’t think this is a fair fight, so we work with caterers to ensure that plant-based options are given the same care, attention, and love as a meat-based dish. With creative language, we make sure plant-based school food sounds as indulgent, delicious, exciting, and attractive as possible to overcome prejudices. We also position plant-based options at the top of school menus around half of the week to help increase the popularity of the dish. All our recommendations are based on the latest behavioural insights research.

MEANINGFUL CHOICE

Very often, we see the vegetarian option being a veggie version of the meat-based meal – for example Pork Sausages and Mash and Veggie Sausages and Mash.

We understand this approach – as it’s quicker and cheaper than making an entirely different vegetarian meal. But that tends to limit its uptake just to the vegetarian and vegan children, and we want to make healthy plant-based eating accessible to all!

By tweaking the veggie meal ever so slightly, we can give the dish a new identity. This helps to tempt a lot of children who usually choose meat-based meals to choose the veggie option instead. We call this creating a meaningful choice.

COST-EFFECTIVE

We know what you’re thinking – what will all of this cost? With budgets tighter than ever, we recognise this is a legitimate concern. However, plant-based meals are on average cheaper than their meat-based counterparts. This is because animal-based products are among the most expensive food items we buy. Chickpeas are far cheaper than chicken, and lentils cost a fraction of the price of minced beef!

“The support we receive from regular discussions with ProVeg UK allows us to look at what else and where else we can have impacts. It has allowed us to make savings in our purchasing across TDET of around 20% across our schools.”

– -Michael Dove, Catering Operations Manager, Thomas Deacon Education Trust

By carefully keeping the cost of our recipes down (starting at 28p per portion with an average cost of less than 44p per portion), we should be able to save you money. In fact, almost all of our partners have saved money through the School Plates programme.

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