Momentum builds for Europe’s universities to embrace plant-based catering

Two UK universities voted for plant-based catering this month whilst an audit in Italy shows mixed support for plant-based meals

Image source: Fry Family Food Co.

A growing number of universities across Europe are embracing plant-based catering, a development welcomed today by food awareness organization, ProVeg International. This trend reflects the growing acknowledgment of universities’ cultural influence and their pivotal role in shaping ethical perspectives and sustainable practices within society.

Plant-Based Universities, a student-led organization, has been spearheading campaigns across Europe aimed at expanding plant-based canteen menus. This month, the student unions at the Universities of Falmouth and Exeter voted to transition to a 100% plant-based menu, joining a growing list of universities in the United Kingdom, including Warwick, Stirling, Cambridge, Birmingham, Kent, London Metropolitan, Queen Mary University of London, and University College London.

Outside of the UK, the University of Graz in Austria has already opted for plant-based catering. In the Netherlands, students at several universities began campaigning to get their universities to switch to fully plant-based catering. Two hundred Dutch academics signed an open letter in support of the move, which has now garnered over 1,200 signatures from academics, politicians, public figures, and healthcare professionals.1

Lucia Hortelano, ProVeg International EU Senior Policy Manager, said, “It’s encouraging to see the academic centers of Europe embrace climate-friendly food. There’s certainly a growing momentum, but it’s important that other universities follow suit.”

“We need to seize this momentum, because for some students, it’s not just a matter of whether the school will adopt fully plant-based menus – sometimes it’s whether the canteen will even offer plant-based options,” Hortelano continued.

More plant-based options needed in Italian canteens

The MenoPerPiù campaign by Essere Animali recently published a report on plant-based offerings at Italian universities. Out of 58 menus analyzed, only 12 canteens were found to fully meet the criteria for a diverse and sustainable menu. The report further found that only 20% of the universities surveyed provided plant-based options for main courses up to 1-2 times a week.2

Despite some of MenoPerPiù’s concerning statistics, a study conducted in 2023 by ProVeg International and Smart Protein, called “Evolving appetites: an in-depth look at European attitudes towards plant-based eating”, found that 59% of Italians are already actively reducing their meat consumption, citing health, animal welfare, and environmental concerns as primary motivations.3

“Examining statistics from Italy highlights the existing demand for plant-based foods, despite the inconsistency in menu offerings. It’s crucial that we capitalize on recent successes and leverage the growing awareness and willingness to embrace climate-friendly foods throughout Europe,” said Hortelano. “This necessitates actively raising awareness about the impacts of animal agriculture and ensuring that canteen offerings align with student values. It’s imperative to sustain student campaigns and initiatives such as ProVeg’s School Plates program. By providing resources, support, and guidance, the ProVeg’s School Plates program empowers schools to introduce plant-based meal options effectively.”

“Universities wield considerable cultural influence and play a pivotal role in shaping ethical perspectives and sustainable practices within society. As hubs of knowledge and innovation, they are instrumental in educating future leaders and driving research on pressing global issues, including the climate crisis. By transitioning to fully plant-based menus, universities can lead by example, demonstrating a genuine commitment to addressing the climate and ecological emergencies,” said Hortelano.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

For media inquiries, email Jillian LaBruzzo or Peter Rixon at [email protected]

Footnotes

1 Over 200 Dutch Academics Call For 100% Plant-Based University Catering As Plant-Based Universities Launches In The Netherlands, Plant-Based Universities, (5 February 2024).

2 Mense Per Il Clima: Ranking Della Ristorazione Universitaria, MenoPerPiù, Essere Animali, (2024).

3 “Evolving appetites: European attitudes towards plant-based eating”, ProVeg International, (November 2023).

About ProVeg International

ProVeg International is a food awareness organization with the mission to replace 50% of animal products globally with plant-based and cultivated foods by 2040. Our vision is a world where everyone chooses delicious and healthy food that is good for all humans, animals, and our planet.

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