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The Eating Better alliance has published a report titled ‘Serving better: better menus make better choices’ ahead of Public Sector Catering’s second Plant-Based Week, which is taking place from 9-13 May 2022.

The report includes top tips to help and encourage public sector caterers to introduce more plant-based dishes to their menus. More and more chefs are being trained to develop exciting plant-based dishes for the public sector as the industry as a whole looks to reduce its carbon emissions.

Andy Jones, chair of the PSC100 Group, said, “We are working closely with the industry to develop menus which show our commitment to increasing plant-based meals while using less but better quality meat produced to higher animal welfare and environmental standards.”

According to an Eating Better survey in 2021 of public sector caterers around 80% of those who took part said they had committed to reducing meat across their menus. The survey also found that over half of respondents had changed their menus to make plant-based dishes more prominent.

Nick Vadis, culinary director at Compass Group UK, added: “We are seeing the use of vegetarian and vegan prefixes on menus being replaced with plant-based or plant-forward, which helps attract a wider audience. Flexitarians will experiment with other forms of protein and flavours. It also helps with the drive towards net zero by reducing meat content.”

The report identifies five tips, including:
> More and better choice of plant-based dishes
> Make plant-based dishes the core offer
> Stimulate the senses with better food descriptions
> Avoid negative language
> Make the connection with tradition and familiar dishes

The University of Winchester has been serving more plant-based dishes and ‘less but better’ meat from local suppliers. The menu change has resulted in the university reducing its carbon footprint by 39%.

The university has launched an initiative which involves people buying six plant-based meals and then getting the seventh for free (the seventh meal can be a meat-based option). The scheme aims to encourage students and staff to buy alternative food that is better for the planet.

Simon Billing, executive director of Eating Better, commented, “The University of Winchester are a beacon of sustainable eating with a fantastic menu with lots of vegetables [as well as] ‘less and better’ meat. I’ve walked here from the station, I’ve walked passed the hospital, care home and prison.

'These are institutions that feed thousands of people every day. This is the opportunity for where the public sector can really lead and demonstrate eating better.

“We think it’s about rebalancing the plate, about a different position for meat. About meat being something special, a garnish on the plate versus the centre of the plate and filling that plate full of vegetables and plant-based proteins that are just great for your health, great for your gut and great for the planet.

“We think that every organisation should have a sustainable food strategy that puts ‘less and better’ eating very central to that. And then there are lots of ways of delivering that: more vegetarian and vegan options throughout the week, less meat within the dishes, more focus around ‘better’ meat and local sourcing.”

(source: LACA, www.eating-better.org/)