As the school bell rings at the start of term three, the New South Wales Minister for Education has already received an award for his achievements.
Minister Rob Stokes has received a Proggy (“Proggy” is for “progress”) Award from PETA for his department’s Healthy School Canteen Strategy, which directs tuck-shops across the state to stop using fat-laden dairy butter and cream and encourages them to swap chicken schnitzels for veggie burgers!
“We can’t teach good nutrition in the classroom and then sell rubbish in the playground,” Stokes says.
These changes can’t come quickly enough. One in four Australian children is overweight or obese, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Australian vegetarians are 15 per cent less likely to be overweight or obese than their meat-eating counterparts are. More importantly, people who adopt a plant-based diet are less likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Moving towards more plant-based meal options for children is a great way to ensure kids get all the vitamins, fibre, and protein they need to make it through a busy school day. After the Active Learning Elementary School in the United States made the switch to an all-vegetarian cafeteria program, school officials reported that student attendance, attention spans, and test scores all improved. Film director James Cameron and his wife, Suzy, also have made their school’s menu plant-based – with great results!
The Healthy School Canteen Strategy is a step in the right direction towards improving the health and learning outcomes for kids in New South Wales.