Plants to fuel our future generations?
1. What did the change achieve?
Since switching to a plant-based menu in January 2020, Jigsaw Nurseries has managed to dramatically reduce its environmental impact.
- 56% reduction in Carbon Footprint (equivalent to 160 return flights to Malaga)
- 47% reduction in land use (equivalent to 7 football pitches)
- 31% reduction in water use (equivalent to 45,000 baths each year)
2. What did the process look like?
End to end this was a 12-month process which saw us engaging with a fully qualified dietitian with paediatric experience whilst continually referencing the relevant regulation and guidelines for our sector to ensure all the requirements were being met. As much as we wanted to make this move for environmental purposes the well-being of our children is paramount so we had to have full confidence that everything was in place behind the scenes before moving forward.
Here are some good guidelines for early years food:
- Public Health England / NHS – Eat Well Guidelines – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-eatwell-guide
- First Steps Nutrition Trust – https://www.firststepsnutrition.org/
- British Dietetic Association (BDA) – https://www.bda.uk.com/
4. Do the children like the food?
The migration went seamlessly, and the new menu has been a huge success. We purposely chose dishes that the children were familiar with so that they had familiarity with the tastes and flavours. The children overwhelmingly enjoy the food we offer them and, in the process, we are establishing some incredibly positive habits relating to food that they will take with them once they leave us to move onto the next stage of their journey. 1 in 10 children in the UK who leave Pre School to go to Primary school are classed as obese. That number rises to 1 in 5 children when moving from Primary to High School. Not only is our plant-based menu far better for the environment is also works towards ensuring we give the children in our care a healthy start to their young lives.
5. Is it expensive?
It is a misconception that eating plant based is expensive. Just like any food choices you can make them as expensive or as cheap as you chose. If you choose to purchase high end goods, you are likely to pay more however most of the mainstream supermarkets offer equivalent products far cheaper making this an option for everyone. From our experiences planning and researching the best sources for your ingredients makes life far easier and allows you to work within whatever budget you may have.
7. What small things could I do if I did not want to move to a fully plant-based diet?
We appreciate that moving to a fully plant-based diet will not be for everyone however there are a lot of small changes you could introduce to your food world which over time would start to make a meaningful impact on the environment.
- Plant based milk alternatives are becoming hugely popular in many countries and with most brands including nutrition fortification (for elements such as Calcium, Vitamin D, B12, B2) they are a nutritionally sound alternative to traditional dairy options but with a far lower impact environmentally.
- Another growing trend is people opting for meat / fish free days through the week. Reducing meat / fish and replacing them with a well-planned plant-based alternative on a regular frequency has the ability over time to make a very real difference to our environment. Through our work with Foodsteps (Environmental impact & Sustainable Solutions business) we learned that each day of change was equivalent to an 11% reduction of our carbon footprint per week.
- As previously mentioned, there is also a rapidly increasing array of plant-based alternatives and options available at most local supermarkets. In most instances the taste and eating experience is remarkably similar therefore you can have an incredibly positive impact on our environment without any great sacrifice for the things you love. The more the demand for these products grows the more options the food industry will make available to us.
To compliment our migration to a Plant-Based menu and to enhance our children’s educational experience we expanded our growing capabilities by securing significant plot space at our local allotment.
Not only does this allow us to grow organic seasonal fruit and vegetables for our nursery kitchens throughout the growing seasons – it provides us with a wonderful opportunity to engage our children in both the health and environmental benefits of growing your own produce.
Every single bit of produce grown at the allotments has been planted, nurtured, and harvested by children from the nurseries and their buy-in in terms of engaging with the food at mealtimes has grown exponentially with the increased ownership and involvement they have in the entire growing process.
What can I do at home to get started?
Owning or having access to an allotment plot or simply growing in your house / garden is a wonderful way of engaging with nature whilst lessening the demands made on our planet from an energy intensive food production perspective.
To find out more information or to locate an allotment near you please visit:
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