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Thinking of becoming a 'meat free' Eco-School?

Halcyon London International School explain how…

While more and more schools are starting to offer vegetarian and vegan options today, Halcyon has uniquely offered an exclusively vegetarian menu with some vegan meals since it began in 2013. Halcyon’s co-founders were committed from the start to embedding sustainable practices into the fabric of the school so our community could experience certain philosophies every day instead of having them be solo events such as “healthy nutrition month”. While we had some resistance in the early days, we knew it aligned well with our commitment to innovation, offered lower facilities costs and increased student nutritional health.

What it’s like to cook in a vegetarian school?
We spoke to Sonia Cross, Food Services Manager and Dee Williams, Cook, about their experiences catering for an entirely vegetarian school

Sonia: “When I prepare the menu, I always look for nutritionally well-balanced options and ensure we are catering for those who have allergies and other dietary requirements. I research all the ingredients to see if they will interfere with the dietary requirements and put the menu together based on my findings. We serve snacks at break time and, for lunch, we make homemade smoothies and juices, two mains, salads, soups, sandwiches and desserts. We encourage all schools to get involved in understanding and creating vegetarian food. We 100% prefer cooking vegetarian food and would welcome other schools to come here and work with us, to take home new skills and knowledge and implement it at their own school, even if it’s not a vegetarian only school, it could improve their vegetarian dishes.”

Dee: “In my previous roles I’ve always offered a vegetarian option, now it’s vegetarian only so it’s on a wider scale and this has given me the opportunity to be more diverse in the dishes, feature foods from more countries and experiment with more flavours! Coming to Halcyon was a real eye-opener in relation to what we could offer the students to broaden their palates. It is a great challenge to keep designing and preparing new dishes, which we do each term, it keeps us improving all the time. Both my own children are vegetarian and it’s a pleasure to cook for them. When we teach the children to cook in our kitchen, it’s a skill for life that they will never forget. They won’t be scared to experience different foods. The other nice thing about Halcyon is we can invite parents to come and cook with us for the day too which is really good fun

How we help students understand why our school is vegetarian
Stephanie Cooke, Eco-Coordinator

“To help students understand the reasons behind why our school is vegetarian and to help them appreciate the fresh healthy food cooked in our canteen, we implemented a number of strategies. Firstly, all of our Year 7 students have to work with our cooks Sonia and Dee on planning a nutritionally balanced menu, organising food ordering to minimise food waste, preparing and cooking the food, serving it to the whole school and clearing away afterwards. Since this has been introduced, there seems to be a lot more understanding of the hard work done by the cooks and other catering staff and an appreciation for the healthy food they serve.

Our Eco Committee have undertaken a number of measures to educate the school community. They have weighed the food waste scraped from plates in the canteen to raise awareness about not taking more food than you will eat, highlighted the benefits of reducing food waste and eating a vegetarian lunch focusing on the reduced water waste and carbon emissions. The Eco Committee have also made videos which are played in our canteen on the subjects of food waste and placing used smoothie bottles in the correct bin so they can be washed and reused.

Students are also educated about a range of diets including vegetarian and vegan through their science lessons, including the impact on animal welfare and the environment having researched and debated these issues during Debate Day. Older students participate in the Food Cycle and Winter Night Shelter charity programmes, which involve preparation and the serving of vegetarian food”