Plant-powered school meals in Waltham Forest win national praise

Pupils have been enjoying the benefits of a vegetarian diet thanks to a new initiative

Leyton Orient mascot Theo the Wyvern joins children in Waltham Forest for a healthy school meal (credit ProVeg UK)
Leyton Orient mascot Theo the Wyvern joins children in Waltham Forest for a healthy school meal (credit ProVeg UK)

Schools in Waltham Forest have won national awards for their healthy and sustainable menus.

The schools are among the first in the country to secure the gold award in The ProVeg School Plates Awards, a national accreditation scheme recognising nutritious and eco-friendly menus. 

The winning schools menus were created by Waltham Forest Catering, which caters to over 43 schools across the borough. The catering service launched its new menus earlier this month, featuring a number of new plant-based meals that have proven extremely popular with pupils and staff alike.

Working with ProVeg UK, a non-profit organisation, the schools have replaced several carbon-heavy meat-based dishes with sustainable alternatives – while also increasing the nutrition profile of the meals. The schools serve a wide range of delicious, low-carbon dishes ranging from smokey jackfruit jambalaya to roasted red pepper and chickpea risotto, helping children to make the connection between their food and its impact on the planet. 

Jimmy Pierson, director of ProVeg UK, said: “We are delighted to recognise the remarkable efforts of Waltham Forest in promoting better health and sustainability across school menus.

“We didn’t expect to be awarding gold so soon into the launch of our awards scheme! In light of the climate crisis, the urgency to minimise food emissions cannot be overstated, which is why it’s so inspiring to see schools leading the way in healthy and sustainable catering.”

Alistair Strathern, Waltham Forest Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “This ProVeg UK award is a very timely honour for all at Waltham Forest Catering. We are absolutely delighted that our commitment to plant based, and nutritious mid-day meals has been recognised.

“It comes just a few weeks before the Mayor of London introduces free school meals in our primary schools.

“The fact is that these meals are not only healthy and environmentally sustainable – they are delicious and popular too.

“It is a testament to all who have helped make it happen that doing the right thing doesn’t have to be boring. Well done to everyone who has worked on this.”

The ProVeg School Plates Awards launched earlier this year to set the standards for low-carbon menus across UK schools. The awards are designed to recognise the positive steps taken by caterers to create healthier, climate-friendly menus.

ProVeg UK is currently working with 40 major catering partners across the UK through its school plates programme. Since the programme launched in 2018, the non-profit has helped turn over 9.2 million school dinners meat-free or plant-based while developing tasty, nutritious, and sustainable menus. 

All UK schools can participate in The ProVeg School Plates Awards for free. For more information: