The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS), in partnership with a group of North Vancouver students, has asked the District of North Vancouver council to help put more plants on plates.
VHS has supported the students, who are members of the Sutherland Secondary Meatless Monday Club and the North Vancouver Climate Action Committee, in getting more plant-based options on their school’s cafeteria menu in an effort to help protect animal welfare, tackle climate change and enhance student health.
The school’s Meatless Monday initiative, which was launched in 2017, has been well-received among students, with the meat-free special often selling out in the cafeteria. This led VHS and the Meatless Monday Club to work with the school’s food service provider, Amaga Food, to begin expanding plant-based options to the daily menu.
Now, we are encouraging council to follow suit. In our joint presentation to council on July 8, we highlighted the growing number of studies and evidence surrounding the benefits of a plant-based diet, including the recent EAT-Lancet Commission report that identifies a science-based diet that is both healthy for people and the planet, as well as Canada’s revised Food Guide, which recommends shifting consumption to more plant-based foods, including plant-based proteins.
Given that food accounts for nearly one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than half of which comes from animal products, opting for more climate-friendly plant-based meals is yet another tool in the toolkit for tackling climate change.
In fact, it’s quite a powerful tool, when we consider that the scientific evidence suggests a significant reduction in global consumption of animal products is necessary to meet our climate targets and keep global warming below the danger level of two degrees Celsius. In terms of impact, research suggests that shifting Western diets to plant-based eating patterns has the potential to reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70 per cent and land use by 80 per cent.
It’s this mounting evidence that led us to recommend that the council amend the District of North Vancouver’s climate action plan to include a focus on plant-based food procurement as part of the larger strategy for mitigating climate change at the local level. We’re encouraging the council to set a tangible goal for plant-based procurement as well as examining municipal food-related spending such as catered meetings, events, and concessions.
It was fitting that our presentation should happen on the same evening that the council unanimously passed a crucial motion declaring a climate and ecological emergency. As district staff now explore additional actions that can be taken at the municipal level, we’re hopeful that our recommendations surrounding climate-friendly plant-based food procurement will be a part of the strategy moving forward.
That there is so much power in what we put on our plate means there is so much potential to have a positive impact when it comes to creating a sustainable food system. In the midst of the climate and ecological emergency that we face, there is a role for all of us to play in being a part of the solution, including municipal governments. And we’re optimistic that we can all rise to the occasion.
Emily Pickett is campaign director for Vancouver Humane Society