Children attending a very special family of nurseries will be celebrating another fantastic Meat Free Monday today. Just Childcare is thought to be the first nursery group in Britain to support MFM across all its 33 branches.
The group joined Meat Free Monday in 2015 but this year added an extra 12 nurseries, bringing the total number of little MFMers learning about and enjoying healthy eating in its establishments to more than 1,000. That means more kids than ever before having the healthiest possible start to the week.
As well as a thousand children picking up good nutritional habits, a thousand families are becoming aware of the campaign, as what the kids learn about health and sustainability is coming home with them. There are several Just Childcare nurseries in Blackpool, for example, a city where more than a third of 11-year-olds are overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is something meat-reducing diets have been shown to help alleviate.
Mark Webster, Just Childcare’s catering manager, says it’s important children develop a love of healthy eating, since these lessons about food stay with them throughout their lives.
“To change a culture you need to start at a young age,” he said. “We now have children aged 0 to 5 adopting Meat Free Monday across our nurseries, so it will be completely normal to the next generation. It is also a great excuse to eat more vegetables and introduce new flavours to our children.”
The nurseries make a point of teaching the children about where their food comes from and how it affects their bodies, enabling them to make healthy choices on their own once they’re older. They are also served food they might not have tried before, which is vital for improving their palates and keeping them open to new tastes and textures.
A recent Meat Free Monday menu included vegetable chilli with sweet potato wedges for lunch and a creamy pea soup with crusty bread for an afternoon snack. Several kids were approached for a comment about whether they enjoyed this but were too busy tucking in to shout anything other than: “Yes!”
Webster added: “Meat Free Monday gives us a weekly opportunity to introduce new foods to the children and to talk about eating a balanced diet. By teaching them that a delicious meal does not have to include meat, we are helping them to make healthy decisions in the future.”
The only problem? This kind of outlook is in danger of putting other childcare providers in the shade. If you think your little darlings deserve better, see if your local nursery is interested in joining Meat Free Monday and drop us a line!