Plant-based food will soon be offered to 130 nurseries in the UK in a bid to inspire children to make nutritious food choices.
Nursery Kitchen, a nursery food supplier, has partnered with food brand Gosh!, which produces vegan meals and snacks. The Sweet Potato Pakora and Mediterranean Falafel – two of its best-selling products – will now be offered as options for the nursery menus.
According to Nursery Kitchen, the partnership comes following a number of reports revealing “concerning” nutrition habits among young children. The company cited First Steps Nutrition Trust, which stated that 61 percent of children get their energy from ultra-processed foods. It also referenced the National Child Measurement Programme, which found that one fifth of children are thought to be overweight or obese when they start school.
“The stats in recent news reports signal a drastic need for change in the early years food industry,” commented Hannah Dolan, head of food at Nursery Kitchen. “Children need to have access to healthy food choices at the earliest possible age to have the best chances of carrying through such preferences and eating habits into their adult years.”
Plant-based food at nurseries and schools
Last year, a petition was set up urging the government to ensure that schools provide a vegan meal option every day. The petition cited the 2010 Equality Act, under which vegan children and students shouldn’t be discriminated against.
“Currently the Government only asks that schools make ‘reasonable choices’ when deciding whether to cater for vegans in their care,” the petition stated. “Those who choose not to are discriminating and it is about time that the grey area became black and white. Vegan options in 2022 should not be optional.”
The government responded after it got 26,000 signatures, stating: “Head teachers and governors set their schools’ food policies. We expect them to act reasonably and to work with parents to provide choices that meet dietary and cultural needs, including veganism.”
Despite the fact that plant-based food is known to come with health benefits, offering vegan meals to children has in the past been a contentious issue.
In 2019, a nursery in Chester sparked national headlines after announcing it would be removing animal products from its menus. Parents accused the nursery of trying to “impose a lifestyle choice” that “discriminates” against their children. Some parents defended the decision, however, with one saying: “It’s like saying you don’t want your children to be educated in what will save our planet!”
The environmental benefits of plant-based food
Eating a plant-based diet is often considered to be the best thing we as individuals can do for the planet. A study previously found that being vegan would reduce your carbon footprint by around 73 percent.
Animal agriculture is responsible for at least 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (though some estimates put this figure much higher). It’s also a primary driver of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and species extinction. Experts from bodies like the UN and University of Oxford have stated that a shift towards a more plant-based food system is essential to combat climate collapse.