In the United Kingdom, current guidance requires that schools serve food including dairy with each meal, meat or poultry at least three days out of every five-day week, and oily fish (such as salmon or herring) at least once every fifteen days. This guidance is called the School Food Standards, or SFS, and it also includes details like not allowing students to have salt or sweetened desserts or beverages. The standards include only one mention of vegetarian options, requiring a non-dairy protein portion available specifically to those with meat-free diets at least three days a week.

A new campaign has arisen to change these standards, removing the requirement to serve meat and dairy and replacing it with broader guidelines which “allow schools to be more flexible.”

The most prominent backer of this new campaign is perhaps the most famous vegetarian in the world, Sir Paul McCartney.

“No one needs to eat meat,” said Sir Paul and his daughters, Stella and Mary, in a prepared statement. “So it shouldn’t be mandatory to serve it in schools. It’s time to revise the School Food Standards to help the planet, spare animals, and promote healthy eating.”

In a 2019 poll, it was found that as much as 70 percent of British children of school age want more meat-free and even vegan meals on their school menus, largely for environmental reasons. This study was cited in a letter written to education secretary Gavin Williamson, who is part of the SFS decision-making process, by the McCartneys, Greenpeace, PETA, and the Royal Society for Public Health.

“As the world faces dual health and climate crises, going vegan is one of the best things young people can do for animals, the planet, and their own health,” said the letter.

Supporters of the School Food Standards as they stand point to the fact that animal products are the most bioavailable sources of many key vitamins and minerals. But meat-free diets can most certainly be made healthy, and ought to be an option available to all.

Photo: Shutterstock