Students win meals for eating less meat

Portsmouth University is offering free meals to those who tuck into plant-based food

Students taking part in Kale Yeah

University is traditionally a time of baked beans, toast and penury, but students at Portsmouth are being encouraged to revel in cheap, nutritious and planet-friendly meat free eating.

As part of a loyalty scheme developed by Friends of the Earth in conjunction with the catering service at Portsmouth University, a series of rewards is being offered to undergraduates and postgraduates to get them to eat less meat.

The Kale Yeah! project entitles students who have eaten six veggie or vegan meals at cafes on campus (presumably not in one sitting) to a seventh meal for free – either veggie/vegan or meat.

They use a special electronic loyalty card to keep track of the delicious plant-based fare they’re putting away. With their record of achievements logged on a database, there’s no fear it will get lost down the pub.

The cards are swiped when paying for food and automatically notify their owners when they are entitled to their free meal. Friends of the Earth can also use the data to see if the scheme leads to reduced meat consumption, with a view to rolling it out in other universities.

Geared towards winning over meat eaters, the goal of Kale Yeah! is to encourage people who might not otherwise try meat free food to give it a whirl. Those who are already on the side of the environmental angels can continue to eat the healthy food they love and earn their free meal too.

Students may be academic high-flyers, but tend to be bottom of the class when it comes to their meat consumption. A National Union of Students survey of 2,259 students found that 72 per cent of them eat meat most days or every day – although almost a quarter said they were eating less or are veggie or vegan.

The point is to let the food do the talking and encourage people to change their diets for the greener, rather than forcing them to do so. And with 25,000 cash-strapped students at Portsmouth, there are likely to be many converts.

“Nothing focuses customers’ attention more than when there’s a reward at the end. This is about offering a carrot rather than a stick,” said the university’s head of catering, Nick Leach. “We have to be responsible for what we offer customers. Caterers have to wise up to the fact that tastes and times are changing. There is no plan B for the planet.”