Children are more aware than ever of the environment and the impact that we as global citizens have on our world. Governments, scientists and even celebrities hand out warnings on the need for change in the way we live and interact with the world at large.
We in the food industry must take action, and we are! But it’s not just about packaging and plastics, which is most people’s first port of call to make change. It’s about the food we prepare and eat too. Provenance, preparation, wastage and menu engineering are all important areas to look at. This is, of course, what we do and have always done, but considering and understanding the sustainability and environmental impact on each of these areas is now vital.
In independent schools we’re ideally placed to lead change with children – our customers – who across the globe have recently shown themselves to be some of the most motivated and mobilised citizens on this topic.
At the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association (ISBA) Conference 2019, our eye-catching stand was a talking point, designed to have an impact and provoke debate, pushing the need for thought in what we eat. Plants are a hugely important source of food for us all, as they have always been. However, with the rise in concern over sustainability of meat production and the negative impact it has on the environment, plants are clearly part of the way forward – back to nature, if you will. Plants can deliver what we need nutritionally, alongside animal products, and provide a well-balanced diet. But we all must understand the facts and the fiction better.
How do we produce intelligent, thought-provoking, sustainable and cost-effective menus packed full of nutrients and goodness? We have a strong ethos of embracing health and wellbeing, and this inspires us to look at new ideas and ingredients like banana blossom. Our chefs and nutritionists work together to develop intrinsically nutritious menus that meet the needs of developing children and, of course, taste great. Engaging our pupils in what we’re doing creates debate and learning, and makes food interesting and fun.
We all have a responsibility to embrace and support the rising awareness of mental health as part of a management of change in our schools. The rise in popularity of the Japanese concept of ‘forest bathing’ demonstrates this line of thought in the wider world. Forest bathing draws on therapeutic powers of nature and connects people with the environment, thus potentially reducing stress and anxiety and promoting wellbeing.
It’s so easy to link this to children and schools. We have forest schools within our portfolio that embrace both concepts in education and the related enjoyment of food and learning in the outdoors.
Staying true to our messaging, at a recent client networking event we visited a top vegan restaurant, serving up a 10 course tasting menu. It was a runaway success with even die-hard meat-eaters being ‘converted’ on the virtues and scope of plants.
“Who knew?” was a much-stated rhetorical question. Served with bio-dynamic wines it was a taste sensation that provided a meal experience second to none.
There is, however, an important message in this too – if we can successfully engage and educate adults in what’s possible with food, then as influencers in a child’s world, surely, we can affect change effectively. Change that will impact the globe and the future. Daily, we are capturing a child’s imagination, perception of food, and environment in our meal experiences and engagement. We must ask ourselves, what impact and successful changes can we make as individuals and as an industry on our environment, on our children’s future, on our future generations’ lives, and, indeed, on our world? Think on!