The London borough of Waltham Forest has been recognised as having the greenest school menus in the UK, following The Green School Menu League competition.
A total of 50 schools in the area are catered for by the Waltham Forest Catering team, with around one million meat-free school meals being served a year.
Tasty and varied plant-based options are available every day ranging from coconut korma, and vegan pizza, to Jamaican patties. Schoolchildren have helped the staff from Waltham Forest Catering to develop the meatless options, by taking part in regular taster sessions.
The Green School Menu League was launched in February 2022 by plant-based meat alternative company Meatless Farm, non-profit organisation ProVeg UK’s School Plates Programme, and the UK’s youngest vegan chef, Omari McQueen, in a bid to introduce 15 million meat-free meals to school menus.
Menus from across the country were judged by Meatless Farm and McQueen, and needed to be in line with ProVeg UK’s School Plates Programme guidelines, which includes things like good description of meals and inclusive planning.
Omari McQueen said: “Children in Waltham Forest have taste tested the plant-based dishes served on their menus and are inspiring more delicious sustainable school meals. These menus are what children want to eat, and the adults!
“It makes me happy to see that they have plant-based options on the menu every day to help make a difference to the world around us. Every school menu should be like this one.”
Christine Cornall, Waltham Forest Catering Operations Manager, added: “We are so pleased to be top of the Green School Menu League. The whole catering team has worked so hard to ensure that the meals we provide to the children are more sustainable but equally nutritious.
“It’s a fantastic achievement for the 50 schools we serve within the borough.”
Jenny Hammond Primary School, one of the schools serving Waltham Forest Catering’s winning menu, took part in a cooking masterclass this week with McQueen, author of two plant-based cookbooks and host of CBBC show, What’s Cooking Omari?, to learn about the advantages of eating plant-based foods.
The school will later receive a £5,000 investment from McQueen to go towards building its sustainable eating programme, as well as a selection of Meatless Farm products.
ProVeg UK will also offer Waltham Forest Catering a plant-based workshop to develop its meals to keep sustainable eating a priority in the school canteens it serves.
Jimmy Pierson, ProVeg UK Director, said: “We’re incredibly impressed by Waltham Forest Catering, who are showing real climate leadership by serving more sustainable plant-based meals on school menus, knowing that it’s also healthier for children and can save them money.
“Young people care about climate change and the planet – more than any other generation – and we know from their feedback that they love the new plant-based meals served in fifty of the schools served by Waltham Forest Catering.”
The runners-up of the competition include: North Yorkshire Council, Academy for Character & Excellence (ACE), Devon, Thomas Deacon Acdemy, and Salford City Council (Citywide Services).
Michael Hunter, Meatless Farm UK and Ireland Managing Director commented: “The work of all the entrants is encouraging, for the environment and for the education young people are receiving about the food system. It shows that making that meat swap doesn’t need to be a compromise.”
The competition is linked to Meatless Farm’s ‘For Kids by Kids’ campaign, which is trying to introduce more meatless meals into schools together with McQueen, and educate five million children worldwide on greener eating by next year.