School, university, company: how do you get a daily vegetarian choice in your canteen?

The Egalim Act, passed in 2018, mandated the introduction of a weekly vegetarian menu in school cafeterias. Problem: Not all communities adopt it and few go above and beyond the law by offering a vegetarian option on a daily basis. However, this would have its audience: 11% of young people aged 16 to 25 would indeed have excluded meat from their diet, according to a Diplomeo survey. For their part, the collective restaurants outside the school have no obligation to make their plates greener. Can we ask them for a vegetarian option? And can we ask for a daily choice without meat in his school cafeteria? The answer is yes and we explain how to do that.

In France, 2.2% of the population is said to have excluded meat from their diet, according to FranceAgriMer’s 2020 survey. A decision usually motivated by environmental and health reasons and/or by the defense of animal welfare. For these thousands of vegetarians, vegans or flexitarians, eating out can sometimes be complicated, especially if they have lunch in the school or company canteen. Vegetarian options are not necessarily mandatory and often they are rare. Can we act as citizens to adjust the menu of our canteen? How do you go about advocating for meatless options? The website vege cantinesof the Vegetarian Association of France lists some helpful tips to help you through this process.

First and foremost, you need to know your rights.

School, university, companies: not every canteen has the same obligations. Before acting, it is therefore necessary to familiarize yourself with the law to know your rights based on your personal situation.

school canteens

As part of the Agriculture and Food Act passed in October 2018, all school cafeterias — from kindergarten to high school — are now required to offer at least one vegetarian menu per week. These can consist of animal proteins (cheese, egg) or vegetable proteins (legumes, grains). So this obligation is not daily, which means that if you want to get a vegetarian menu in your canteen every day, you have to negotiate on a case-by-case basis.

The entry into force of the new “Climate and Resilience” law, passed in July 2021, should quickly change the situation. This foresees the introduction of a daily vegetarian option in school cafeterias and university restaurants from 2023.

Non-school canteens

For now, no law requires non-school cafeterias to offer their guests a daily or weekly vegetarian option. But here too the Climate Act brings its share of innovations. The new text provides for the introduction, from 2023, of a vegetarian daily menu for all managers of collective catering in the State, establishments and public companies. “because they usually offer a multiple choice menu”.

No coercive measures are foreseen for the restaurants of private companies and therefore the determination of meatless options will have to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

Explain a legal reminder to the affected canteens

If you are a user of a school canteen that does not meet the above obligations, there are several options.

You can remind your canteen of its obligations by means of a legal reminder. To do this, you must first determine who is responsible for the application of the law: for primary schools, this is the municipalities, for colleges, that is the departmental councils, for secondary schools, the regional councils and for higher education, the State ( CROSS). You can then consult the sites of the communities to find the contact person to whom you should send your mail. Do not hesitate to insist on an answer by e-mail or telephone.

‘s website vege cantines provides you ship-ready email that you can download here to claim a vegetarian option. You can give your interlocutor a month to comply with the law, the site reports.

If you don’t want to expose yourself, you can ask the parents’ association to send a reminder to the law. Otherwise it is also possible to contact the team of vege cantines so she can do the process herself.

If the notice to the law was not sufficient and a meat-free option is not introduced in your school cafeteria, you can report this to the team. vege cantines of the AVF via the contact form.

Ask for a vegetarian option if not required

If the obligation to introduce a vegetarian or vegan option does not apply to your canteen, don’t panic! It is still possible to try to obtain satisfaction. ‘s website vege cantines recommends that you send a letter or e-mail to the departments responsible for the cafeteria you visit. The AVF provides a model letter “write to your canteen to get a vegetarian or vegan option” to give you a sample.

The Végécantines team nevertheless indicates that the most effective way to achieve its goals is to create a collective of users. To do this, you can contact Végécantines directly via the contact form, in order to know the procedure to be followed.

By taking action, you can enforce or develop your rights, at your level, for the common good. The Végécantines site recalls that a daily vegetarian option introduced in all public collective catering would save up to 1.35 million tons of CO2 equivalent per year.

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