Meat-free day each week for all children, recommends government’s School Food Standards

Image of school children eating lunch

A new set of school food standards, with accompanying guidance, was launched this week by the Education Secretary Michael Gove – and this included a recommendation for all school children to have a weekly meat-free day.

In the School Food Standards A practical guide for schools their cooks and caterers, one of the ‘Top Tips’ is: “Encourage all children to have a meat-free day each week, using alternatives such as pulses, soya mince, tofu and Quorn.”

Meat Free Monday took part in the consultation prior to the release of the new school food standards, arguing that a weekly meat-free day would improve children’s and young people’s health and provide a unique opportunity to engage them in sustainability issues.

Also included in the new standards, which will be mandatory in all English maintained schools, new academies and free schools from January, are requirements for one or more portions of vegetables or salad as an accompaniment every day, at least three different fruits and three different vegetables each week and an emphasis on wholegrain foods in place of refined carbohydrates.

Based on recommendations in ‘The School Food Plan’, written by John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby, the revision of school food standards is one of a number of actions the government is taking to improve food culture in schools. Others include:

– putting cooking into the curriculum,
– setting up two flagship boroughs in London to demonstrate the impact of improving school food on a
large scale,
– providing £11.8 million to help schools increase take up of good school food,
– providing £3.15 million to help schools set up breakfast clubs,
– introducing free school meals for all infants,
– training headteachers in food and nutrition, and
– ensuring Ofsted inspectors consider the way a school promotes healthy lifestyles.

Ton Mulgrew, BBC Cook of the Year and chef at Ravenscliffe High School, which provides a predominantly vegetarian menu, said: “This is a great opportunity for all school chefs to showcase their skills – for example, writing their own menus for their students and schools, and having the flexibility to use only the best quality and local produce when designing menus.”

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, an advocate of Meat Free Monday, said: “Anything which makes it easier for school cooks to get tastier, nutritious food on the plate at school lunch time has to be welcomed and the new School Food Standards guide does that. There’s also built-in flexibility which is massively important. School cooks are on the frontline in the fight against diet-related disease in my view so it’s vital that they get support. For me, these mandatory minimum standards are so important if we’re going to truly protect the next generation.”

Schools wishing to start Meat Free Monday are invited to contact us at info@meatfreemondays.com for free recipes and lesson plans.