Yes, you read that right. Our pre-school menu is 100% plant-based, entirely free of animal products, and most importantly highly nutritious, delicious and fun. At Sustainable Play we encourage children to learn sustainable practices and that includes learning where their food comes from. We believe empowering children with the tools to eat sustainably, and healthily while being thoughtful to our planet and its animals is key to systemic change in the future of food and public health.
We envision a future where children develop the skills to be self-sufficient and less reliant on inefficient and detrimental global food systems. Most importantly, for children to develop an appreciation for good, whole foods from the earth that fuels and nourishes their bodies. Involving children in the life cycle of their food encourages them to establish lifelong healthy eating habits. At Sustainable Play our weekly curriculum includes garden education and daily activities such as tending to our growing fruits and vegetables, building new beds, harvesting, composting food scraps into the pre-school composting system and using the compost to fertilise our soil.
Plant-Based Food and Sustainability
We believe a plant based diet is an important part of living more sustainably. The commercial production of meat and animal products uses considerably more environmental resources than plants such as water use and fossil fuels. It also contributes significantly more water pollution, carbon emissions, waste byproducts, land degradation, deforestation, habitat and biodiversity loss than plant production.
According to The Vegan Society, “The world’s population is increasing and viable agricultural lands are diminishing. If we are to avoid future global food scarcity we must find sustainable ways of utilising our natural resource base. Industrial livestock production is not just unsustainable; it’s unjustifiable”. Farmed animals unfortunately consume much higher resources such as water, calories and protein than they produce as food (The Vegan Society). Where as “shifting away from animal-based foods add up to 49% of the global food supply without expanding croplands” (Jalava et al, 2014) addressing the demand from an increasing global population.
But my family and children are not vegan?
We understand that many families are going to have a preference to include non-plant-based foods in their children’s diets. What families decide to feed their children at home is completely their decision. We’ve decided to be a 100% plant based service and have ensured the food we will provide is nutritionally balanced, fresh, fun and aligned with our vision and mission on sustainability.
The snacks and meals have been thoughtfully developed, by our in house cook, Brooke Ravenscroft, to be appealing to children, but most importantly to be perfectly nutritionally balanced for children aged 3-6 years old. The menu has been thoroughly reviewed by a registered practicing Dietitian specialising in child nutrition to ensure it provides the right amount of nutrients and is entirely compliant with the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
Plant-based Food and Health
The Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine (ASLM), is an interdisciplinary society of health professionals working towards improved prevention, management, and treatment of chronic, complex and lifestyle-related conditions. Lifestyle Medicine is a rapidly growing discipline including GPs and medical specialists, allied health practitioners, public health professionals, health service delivery personnel, educators, scientists and researchers.
ASLM advocate the benefits of switching to a plant based diet as a powerful tool to treat and prevent some of our most pervasive lifestyle diseases such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers (Wilson, 2018).
What is plant-based?
Plant-based food is derived from a plant rather than an animal or their byproducts. It includes vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds. It excludes meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy milk, dairy cheese, dairy yoghurt and honey.
The most recent Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming at least 5 serves of vegetables and legumes, and at least 2 serves of fruit a day (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2013).
According to Australian Health Survey: Consumption of food groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines; “less than 4% of the population reach the first goal and not quite a third meet the second” (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013). The more servings of vegetables, legumes and fruit we consume the better we are at preventing chronic disease. “Recently researchers demonstrated that while ‘5 a day’ is good, ’10 a day’ is much better!” (Wilson, 2018).
Areas called The Blue Zones were first identified by National Geographic in 2005. These are the locations that are the home to the healthiest and longest living peoples on the planet: Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; and Loma Linda, California. One thing they all have in common is a diet that is primarily plant-based. On average, meat is eaten about 5 times a month, portion sizes are about the size of a pack of cards. The Okinawans, for example get almost 70% of their energy for the day from sweet potatoes! While the Japanese are renowned for their consumption of fish and seafood, the Okinawans actually get only 1% of their energy from fish, compared to 6% from legumes, including soy and other beans. Something else you might be wondering is how a population in California, of all places, is right amongst this rather exotic sounding bunch and punching well above their weight when it comes to health and longevity. In fact, the inhabitants of Loma Linda will live on average 10 years longer than the average American, and are 10 times more likely to live to 100. Well, not at all coincidentally, this area is home to a large population of Seventh Day Adventists, and a plant-based diet is part of their belief system (Wilson, 2018)
Our Food Suppliers
We are proud to partner with Organic Feast in East Maitland to source 100% certified organic, Australian grown fresh produce. For our pantry staples, we partner with Honest To Goodness in Alexandria, NSW, for ethically sourced goods without any fillers or additives. This means that our menu is approximately 80% certified organic as a whole and 100% certified organic for fresh produce. We are proud to partner with ethical suppliers who share our mission of sustainability and our desire for pesticide and chemical free food.
What’s on the menu?
Our Autumn/Winter menu has just been released and it includes wholesome, warming and nourishing kid friendly foods such as minestrone soup with a DIY campfire damper. Children learn with their senses so our menu is designed to include them in the preparation of their meals. From kneading their own damper dough and watching it cook on a campfire on a cold morning, to harvesting zucchini for the soup! Some other main meals are West African sweet potato and peanut stew, lentil & vegetable casserole with mashed potato and peas, creamy cauliflower pasta shells with steamed veggies & baked tofu nuggets and veggie hot dogs! Some of the snacks included are hot cocoa, pizza muffins, sweet potato wedges with hummus, crumbed cauliflower bites with garden grown tomato relish and a carrot and pear wholemeal muffin.
Our menu currently contains nuts, however, when we receive enrolment of a child with anaphylaxis to nuts, a deep sanitisation of the centre will be conducted to remove risk of cross-contamination and the menus will be updated to remove the allergen. We have Dietitian approved substitutes ready to replace nuts on the menu. All non-severe allergies and intolerances will be accommodated for on a case-by-case basis. We are happy to work with families to manage any dietary concerns.
Want to learn more? Here is a list of some extra resources to explore on the benefits of a plant-based diet for our health and environment.
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
- Nutrition Facts
- Vegan Society
- Australasian Association of Lifestyle Medicine
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- Sustainability 2020
- Forks Over Knives
- Cowspiracy Facts
Blog and food images by Brooke Ravenscroft
Hunnes, D (2021). The Case for Plant Based. https://www.sustain.ucla.edu/food-systems/the-case-for-plant-based/#:~:text=From%20a%20water%20perspective%2C%20using,to%20eat%20plant%2Dbased%20foods.
The Vegan Society (n.d.). Environment > How Your Diet Can Change the World. https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/why-go-vegan/environment
Wilson, L (2018). ‘Eat whole foods, mostly plant-based’: What does this actually mean?’. https://www.lifestylemedicine.org.au/content/eat-whole-foods-mostly-plant-based-what-does-this-actually-mean/
Jalava M, Kummu M, Porkka M, Siebert S, and Varis O (2014). Diet Change–a solution to reduce water use? Environ. Res. lett. 9(7):1-14.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011-2012) Australian Health Survey: Consumption of food groups from the
Australian Dietary Guidelines. https://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/77E3E65E4D967249CA2581F40016ABD6/$File/4364.0.55.012%20-%20consumption%20of%20food%20groups%20from%20australian%20dietary%20guidelines.pdf
National Health and Medical Research Council (2013). Eat for Health. Australian Dietary Guidelines Summary. https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/The%20Guidelines/n55a_australian_dietary_guidelines_summary_131014_1.pdf