Frequently asked questions about Meat Free Monday in schools


“What is Meat Free Monday?”

Meat Free Monday is a global citizenship project which aims to encourage school communities to reduce their meat and fish consumption in order to help children and young people make healthier food choices whilst simultaneously encouraging a responsible attitude to the planet. School meals consist of vegetarian food each Monday lunchtime.

This initiative within schools is part of a wider global movement encouraging people to help slow climate change by reducing their meat consumption. There are many different organisations around the world advocating a weekly meat-free day. For more information, check out these Useful links

 “How long should schools sign up for?”

Meat Free Monday benefits both people and planet so ideally it would be adopted long term as an ongoing initiative for the school. Schools which have participated in Meat Free Monday for some time find that it soon fits into the usual routine.

Initially, we suggest that schools sign up for a full year so that students really understand the issues and get familiar with a wide range of meat free food. The longer the project, the greater the impact! However, if your school wishes to trial Meat Free Monday for a shorter period that would still be encouraged. We are confident that once a school sees how beneficial the initiative is to all involved, they will keep Mondays meat free.

 “Does it necessarily have to be a Monday?”

No. By reducing our meat intake – any day of the week – we can help slow climate change, protect the environment and live a healthier life. The alliteration (Meat Free Monday), the idea of having a positive and fresh start to the week and unifying with other organisations promoting a meat free Monday – these are reasons we have suggested Monday.

“Do we go meat free all day or just for Monday lunchtime?”

 Meat Free Monday in schools focuses on school hours only but we encourage staff members and students to remain meat free the whole day (or more) if they want to. We can help by providing lots of delicious meat free recipes as well as practical tips for meat free living.

 “What if a student doesn’t wish to participate or a parent/guardian doesn’t want their child to participate?”

Schools may wish to allow students to opt out of Meat Free Monday (by having a parent or guardian write to the school) or suggest the student brings a packed lunch that day. Alternatively schools may wish to treat Meat Free Monday the same way as any other environmental policy, such as recycling, in which everyone participates.

A whole school approach – implemented following proper consultation with students, parents, staff and governors – promotes consistent messages, clarity and an opportunity to make a real impact.

Ultimately, its up to each school to agree its own position on this, though we are happy to advise.

 “Should students who bring packed lunches go meat free too?”

We suggest that schools encourage students who bring packed lunches to go meat free but currently in most schools, the choice is theirs. Once students understand the reasons for having a meat free day, it is hoped that they will be excited and interested in the project and will choose to participate. The more people who take part, the bigger the impact!

Some schools have introduced a Packed Lunch Policy to support healthier eating and this could be adapted to include Meat Free Monday.

 “How will vegetarian students benefit from the project?”

Like non-vegetarian students, vegetarian students will have the opportunity to explore the reasons why reducing one’s meat consumption is good for the planet. Rather than having just one or two vegetarian options, they will have a wider choice of vegetarian foods not always available in school meals.

 “Why don’t you just suggest that people cut down on meat everyday rather than stop completely for one day?”

 A weekly meat free day is a clear concept, easier to manage for caterers and promotes unity and the sharing of ideas. It also means that schools communities really get to know a range of vegetarian food selections which they might be less likely to if meat was still provided every day.

 “Can schools still serve fish on Mondays?”

We suggest that schools do not serve fish because commercial fishing is also environmentally damaging.

Commercial fishing is destroying biodiversity as miles of nets sweep up the fish in their path, taking other marine life and coral-based habitats with them. Commercial fishing has damaged the ocean’s ecosystem to such an extent that large fish populations are only 10 per cent as large as they were in the 1950s. Some scientists estimate that, the way we’re going, the world’s oceans will be empty of fish by 2048

Fish farms aren’t the solution either. Because of high stocking densities, the fish on ocean-based farms are often affected by parasites and diseases, which they pass to fish living near the farms. If farmed fish escape, they threaten the well-being of native fish species. Fish farms also pollute coastal waters with concentrated fish faeces, and they require huge numbers of wild-caught fish to feed the farmed fish.

 “Should staff members participate?”

Yes, we encourage all members of the school community to take part – students, catering staff, teachers, site manager, and Headteacher. Not only does this set a good example to children and young people, but the greater number of participants, the greater the impact.

 “My school already has a meat free day once a week. Is it still worth us signing up?”

Yes. Signing up to Meat Free Monday will give you the opportunity to network with other schools, share good practice, stay up to date with Meat Free Monday news and get recognition for the difference you are making.

 “What are the Government guidelines on school lunches in England?”

A new set of school food standards, with accompanying guidance, was launched in July 2014 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™.”

The Standards were developed following research showing that children were not making healthy food choices at lunchtime and that school meals did not meet their nutritional needs. The aim of the Standards is to combat childhood obesity and other health problems, and to help children enjoy balanced meals containing good sources of protein, starch, fruit, vegetables and salad. This aim fits in perfectly with Meat Free Monday.

To carry out the nutrient analysis, schools or their caterers can use professional support (e.g. registered nutritionist or state registered dietitian) and/or menu planning and nutrient analysis software. Because Meat Free Monday promotes a healthy and nutritious diet, schools will find that it’s easy to design a Meat Free Monday menu which meets the Government’s requirements. Check out our tips for caterers

 “Isn’t eating meat necessary to stay healthy?”

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases”. 

 “Is there enough protein in a meat free diet?”

Yes. In Western countries, our problem is that we get too much protein, not too little, and this is causing health problems. Most Britons get at least twice as much protein as they need, and too much protein, especially animal protein, can increase the risk of osteoporosis and kidney disease.

There is protein in whole wheat bread, nuts, oatmeal, beans, corn, peas, mushrooms, green leafy vegetables and vegetables like broccoli – almost every food. Unless you eat a great deal of processed, greasy fast food, it’s almost impossible to eat as many calories as you need for good health without getting enough protein.

 “Is it easy to get iron and zinc with a meat free diet?”

Yes, it is. Iron-rich foods include green leafy vegetables (such as kale and cabbage), dried apricots, figs, dates, beans, lentils, tofu, millet, peas and pumpkin seeds. Zinc-rich foods include kidney beans, almonds, wholegrains, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, lentils and tofu. 

 “How can my school get involved?”

Check out these tips for getting started, and once your school is ready, sign up here! If you have any specific queries, please email info@meatfreemondays.com.