Students dining in Sodexo-catered schools will soon have access to more plant-based meals than ever before as part of the hospitality giant’s drive to ‘change the world, one meal at a time’.
Working in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund UK (WWF-UK), the company has developed the Plant+ initiative and is rolling it out to 16 secondary schools and independent schools initially.
It is an extension of WWF-UK’s Finer Diner dining concept, which was first launched in 2019 to encourage university students to try plant-based versions of their favourite meals.
Instead of just being a set of sustainable meals which will be added to menus across the UK, Sodexo Food Innovation & Sustainability Director for Schools and Universities David Mulcahy said Plant+ has an emphasis on education.
Its aim is to help children and young adults understand how small changes in their diets can have a substantial impact on the health of the planet.
“We are not simply adding plant-based dishes to the school menus, we are encouraging the whole school community to engage, discuss and take action through a range of activities and initiatives that go beyond serving delicious school meals,” Mulcahy said.
According to Sodexo’s research, if everyone in the UK ate one plant-based meal just once a week, this would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 million tonnes.
“Powerful messages like this are central to Plant+ in its drive to encourage behavioural change among students and staff, and by taking these messages home, their families too,” said Sodexo in a statement.
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Parents are already in favour of boosting the number of plant-based meals in schools, according to recent Vegan Society data, and there has been a growing effort to include more sustainable vegan options for students across the country. The Green School Menu League launched its mission to get 15 million meat-free meals into schools earlier this year.
As part of Plant+, each school will have a teacher and student ambassador to help catering teams raise awareness of the new sustainable plant-based meals in the classroom and the dining hall, through things like sampling sessions and Q&As.
These volunteers will also drive a pledge campaign, asking everyone interested to aim for at least one plant-based meal a week.
Like the original Finer Dining concept, the Plant+ menu will focus on healthy plant-based food and versions of more traditional and popular dishes. There will be a spotlight on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, and meals will be low in salt, sugar and fat.
Main meal options will feature vegan burgers, chickpea and spinach curry, puy lentil soft shell tacos, falafel and sweet potato hummus wraps and veggie lentil sausage rolls. For dessert, the Plant+ menu will include berry buckwheat crumble, seeded fruit flapjacks, chocolate and kale brownies and vegan doughnuts.
Mulcahy added: “Never before has a generation been so engaged in climate change, and food is at the heart of many environmental issues.
“We have developed Plant+ to raise awareness of the small changes that can be made in their everyday life that will have a positive impact on reducing greenhouse gases.”
Sodexo and WWF International have been in partnership since 2010, addressing key environmental priorities for the catering company like food waste, carbon reduction and responsible sourcing.
Elsewhere, WWF has also been working with Tesco to launch an accelerator programme for sustainable food businesses. The aim is to support the supermarket to make its supply chain less environmentally damaging.