Challenges in Vegetarian School Catering

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AiP Veggie Food (2)AiP has recently won the contract for Nishkam School in Birmingham, our first totally vegetarian and egg-free contract as well as The Steiner Academy, Bristol, where students enjoy a sophisticated vegetarian menu. We’re now tendering for more vegetarian only contracts and there’s increased demand for more vegetarian, vegan and ‘free from’ menus due to both religious and lifestyle reasons, as well as an increase in allergens

Nishkam School, Birmingham
Nishkam School, Birmingham

Amy Teichman, AiP’s Quality & Nutrition Manager looks at the practicalities as well as some of the challenges:

“The biggest challenge in vegetarian catering is that the trend is moving more towards veganism. It makes it much easier for the school kitchen, as well as being more sustainable and cost effective, to try and make our vegetarian offer vegan as well. We have been moving more towards this, so substituting Quorn for Vegan Sausages for example and introducing a vegan cheese that is also free from all allergens. This works well for our allergy- suffering students and our vegan students alike.

“We also have a range of homemade desserts that are egg free as well as those that are vegan. We try to make sure we offer a range of vegan desserts each week and have a range of home-made desserts that are egg free as well as those that are vegan.

“While it is easy to buy pre-made vegetarian and vegan options, they tend to be heavily processed with lots of salt and sugar, which we like to limit. We try to make vegetarian and vegan food from scratch where possible, using world flavours and street food-style concepts which always go down well with students who are influenced by fast food and high street brands.

“Making dishes from scratch means we can ensure a varied menu too – a menu that is full of meat can get repetitive and the same goes for vegetarian food. We can also ensure that the meals are well balanced with the right nutrients. While it is not hard to reach the right levels of iron, essential for a growing teenager in a vegetarian diet, it does needs to be planned in a school menu to ensure the right nutrients are included across the week. We use lots of leafy green vegetables, dried fruits and fortified breads for sandwiches to increase iron consumption.