More vegan and vegetarian meals on the menu for schools in South Shields, Jarrow, Hebburn, Whitburn, Cleadon and Boldon
Children in South Tyneside are now offered a school meal menu where at least half the choices are vegan and vegetarian.
And education chiefs say the percentage of plant-based options could go even higher when new menus are rolled out in September 2022.
South Tyneside Council said the move towards more meat-free options is ‘part of a natural progression towards healthier choices for the borough’s schoolchildren’.
Council bosses said it was also part of efforts to cover all bases in its ambition for the borough to become carbon neutral by 2030.
The local authority said its catering team has already reduced sugar in desserts by up to 30% over the last two years, with a move towards lighter puddings such as fruit and yoghurt.
Councillor Adam Ellison, Lead Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “Making sure our young people have nutritional food to give them energy and help them concentrate in the classroom is our number one priority.
"We are always looking at ways we can improve our menu and it is great that the catering service is taking these further steps to provide our young people with a more balanced diet.
“While we are not suggesting that people should give up meat altogether, substituting meat for plant-based options two or three days a week can be very beneficial both for human health and for the planet.”
Before the new menu is rolled out, children will be asked to sample the new meals to make sure they appeal to their target audience. School lunches in South Tyneside are very popular. Before the pandemic, 90 per cent of primary school children in South Tyneside opted for a school lunch compared to the national average of 71%.
In the new school year, the council also plans to introduce plant-based themed lunches, following on from the launch of meat-free Mondays three years ago.
The move towards eating more pant-based foods is better for the planet as the production of these foods has a lower environmental impact and is more sustainable.
The council said by putting more healthy, vegan options on school menus, the it is delivering on its priorities of investing in the natural environment and supporting families.
Councillor Margaret Meling, Lead Member for Economic Growth, Skills and Climate Change, said: “Global meat and dairy production is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. By reducing our consumption of these foods, we can all do our bit to tackle climate change.”