The ACT Greens are calling for all school canteens in the ACT to be required to provide vegan-friendly meals and other plant-based food on their menu, a move which the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations does not welcome.
Greens spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur will put forward a motion in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday (21 August) calling on the ACT Government to support more plant-based foods options at all schools, hospital and ACT Government events.
The motion calls on the Government to require all school canteens to provide plant-based food options for students, to ensure all students are able to prepare a plant-based meal as part of their curriculum and to support more fruit and veggie patches at schools.
The Greens’ motion does not only target the Education Directorate but also calls on all events catered by the Government to have plant-based food options in sufficient quantity, to make the default meal option at hospitals plant-based as well as ensuring plant-based main meals are offered at the ACT’s correctional facilities.
Ms Le Couteur said more Australians are consuming plant-based foods than ever before, pointing to research that estimates that 12 per cent of Australians are now eating all, or almost all, vegetarian food.
“It’s important that the Government keeps up with cultural change. Nowadays, vegan and vegetarian options, even ‘fake meats’, aren’t out of place on restaurant menus,” Ms Le Couteur said.
“We need to make sure that these options are available for people, and a ‘real option’ in places like hospitals, where a healthy diet can make all the difference to a person’s recovery.
“Plant-based foods will also better support a child’s health and development in the school environment.”
All ACT public schools are required to adhere to the ACT Public School Food and Drink Policy which states that ‘green’ foods, including vegetables and legumes, should always be on the canteen menu.
The policy uses a traffic light system to identify healthy and unhealthy foods, in line with dietary guidelines, with all schools encouraged to increase green foods on their menu and decrease red and amber foods.
ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations believes the current policy already provides healthy menu options for students, stating that most canteens are already mindful of diversity, nutritional and environmental concerns.
Spokesperson Janelle Kennard said the council does welcome greater support for volunteer-led school canteens, more funding for school gardens and support to integrate gardens with the school’s food service but doesn’t believe further regulatory stipulations are necessary.
“Public school canteens provide excellent, healthy menu options and most would already have vegetarian options,” Ms Kennard said. “P&Cs make every effort to be inclusive, being mindful of various dietary requirements and preferences in their school communities.
“Even the traditional election day BBQ is these days being supplemented more and more with other interesting and healthy items and including options like vegetarian, halal, gluten-free and dairy-free.
“Canteens already work under a complex regulatory regime, including tight nutritional guidelines. I don’t think further regulatory stipulations are necessary nor would they be welcomed.”