The Soil Association is calling for the government to update “weak” school meal rules and bring in a mandatory meat-free, ‘plant-based protein day’ each week to tackle the climate change and obesity crises.
The Department for Education (DfE) is reviewing its School Food Standards, and the Soil Association is urging government to make a meat-free day with meals based around beans and pulses compulsory each week.
Currently the School Food Standards only include a non-mandatory recommendation to include a weekly meat-free day. According to the Soil Association, few schools are doing it and, when it does take place, options are often restricted to less healthy options like cheesy pasta or pizza.
As part of the review, the DfE is set to consider recommendations that children should eat more beans and pulses to bring the standards in line with the latest evidence on too little fibre in our diets.
“The updated School Food Standards should require that all schools serve a plant-based protein day each week,” says Rob Percival, head of policy for food & health at the Soil Association. “The current, non-compulsory advice for a meat-free day is too weak. 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. 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. It’s time the government caught up.”