Universities should lead on the plant-based movement, experts say

Heidi Pullig
Picture by Unsplash

To mark National Vegetarian Week 15 – 21 May, Dr Kristof Dhont and colleagues have made a case for a move towards plant-based food in university canteens.

In an article published by The Lancet Planetary Health, Dr Dhont and his fellow authors argue that a large body of scientific literature points toward a need for reducing our consumption of animal-based food, and that universities are best positioned to lead the plant-based movement.

Their article highlights that although some universities are taking some action, most institutions are not responding adequately to meet the demand for plant-based dishes at their campuses, and that university leaders should be challenged to enact change:

‘A typical university procures, directly or indirectly, several tons of animal products every month, and advertises these products to thousands of people every day. This has consequences beyond immediate economic impacts and effects on consumer health. By not changing their practices and policies, universities are sending a message to students, staff, and wider society that the issues associated with animal-based food are not important enough to warrant changes. Thereby, universities risk undermining a large body of scientific literature which suggests the contrary. Moreover, principles such as justice, sustainability, and ecosystem protection are undermined, while convenience and traditional consumer choice are elevated. It is not sufficient to talk about change: universities need to act to help us grow out of the unhelpful norms and perspectives that limit our potential for change.’

The authors show how universities can help staff and students transition towards a more sustainable and healthier plant-based diet through actions such as increasing the number of plant-based options at university canteens and providing information on the environmental impacts of a given dish.

Read the full article ‘Universities should lead on the plant-based dietary transition’ on The Lancet – Planetary Health.