Catering in canteens is a major environmental and health issue
The overproduction and overconsumption of meat has serious environmental and health consequences . Livestock is indeed one of the main drivers of climate change and deforestation today , and its industrialization comes at the expense of the welfare of animals crammed into increasingly large and concentrated farms. In addition, the current level of meat consumption in France is a factor worsening the risk of the appearance of diseases such as obesity, diabetes or even certain types of cancer.
As food is at the heart of significant environmental and health issues, in 2017, Greenpeace decided to investigate the subject and more specifically school canteens, which serve nearly a billion meals per year to more than seven million people. 'children .
At the start of 2018, vegetarian menus almost non-existent
Greenpeace then drew up a clear conclusion: most canteens, plagued by the meat lobby , offered too often industrial meat or fish at all meals . Thanks to the mobilization of thousands of people during an unprecedented contributory survey , the members were able to establish a precise map of French school canteens according to the offer of vegetarian menus they offered. At the time, nearly seven in ten children ate meat or fish with every meal served in the canteen . The meat was then served in proportions that were twice too large! Alarming figures, both for the health of the planet and that of our children.
The EGALIM law, the first decisive turning point
It was necessary to act, and quickly, so that less meat was served in school canteens and to improve its quality. Greenpeance has therefore met political leaders on numerous occasions and has approached collective catering professionals and organizations such as the Vegetarian Association of France (AVF), the Federation of Parents' Councils (FCPE) or again the Front de Mères union to formulate proposals capable of improving the offer offered in school canteens . The “ less but better ” report, published in 2018, and the mapping illustrating the crying lack of vegetarian menus in school canteens have helped strengthen the association's arguments on the subject and gradually convince MPs initially recalcitrant.
Greenpeace's work has borne fruit through the Egalim law , adopted by the National Assembly on October 2, 2018. This has indeed set up the experimentation of a weekly vegetarian menu in all French school canteens for two years . Greenpeace had to fight hard to obtain this great step forward, which the government opposed to the end. The support of parliamentarians for this measure, materialized through several amendments proposed at first and second reading, was therefore essential.
But the law did not then firmly and definitively introduce the weekly vegetarian menu. The experiment gave rise to fears that a step back was possible at the end of it . The health and environmental issues were too important to take the risk of losing such a breakthrough, and the NGO chose to continue its campaign on the subject to preserve and even improve it.
Victorious local mobilizations
After the adoption of this experiment, Greenpeace made the bet to campaign at the local level to convince the local communities, decision makers on the menus served in the canteens, to go further still by offering a daily vegetarian option or more. vegetarian menus every week.
For this, the activist fabric was essential . Across France, local Greenpeace groups have campaigned for municipalities to commit to doing more. Their tremendous advocacy and mobilization work has borne fruit: the cities of Villeurbanne, Bordeaux, Nantes, Paris and many others have gone beyond the planned experimentation by significantly increasing their offer of vegetarian menus.
In addition, Greenpeace has also offered free access to tools (petition, campaign kit, etc.) allowing any motivated person to launch their own campaign for more vegetarian menus in school canteens in their community. This was a great first for Greenpeace France: the 191 current citizen campaigns are listed here , and it is always possible to create new ones!
A final victory!
The achievement of significant victories at the local level and the rather successful implementation of the experiment made it possible to anchor the arrival of vegetarian menus in school canteens. To be sure, Greenpeace carried out a second mapping with much more positive results than the first: in September 2020, around three out of four pupils had the possibility of eating vegetarian at least once a week ! This new mapping was once again carried out thanks to the participation of thousands of people in a contributory survey.
The road accomplished in two years was therefore very encouraging. But certain parliamentarians, the meat lobbies and the Association of Mayors of France were maneuvering so that the experimentation with the weekly vegetarian menu was not perpetuated. The climate law was to be the scene of a final round of negotiations. The activists then approached many associations with which Greenpeace organized a large online mobilization . At the same time, she has carried out several in-depth studies on the impact of vegetarian menus on the planet and the reality of the vegetarian option in the field. At this stage, the student associations have played an essential role: true engines of citizen campaigns, the students have made it possible to increase the pressure on the government and parliamentarians.
Result: the experimentation of the vegetarian menu was finally perpetuated , and a vegetarian option will be made compulsory in all institutions managed by the State in 2023. Another victory obtained on the subject, on a proposal from the association Plates of Vegetables, the AVF, the Climate Action Network and Greenpeace: the evolution of all cooking training (BEP, CAP, etc.). From now on, they will have to offer modules on the preparation of vegetarian dishes! These latest victories are the only real breakthrough brought about by a climate law which is also cruelly flawed .