Food & Beverage

Vegan Preschool Takes an ‘I Wonder’ to Promote Healthy Green Habits

Australia’s first 100% plant-based preschool has opened enrolments for 2022 for kids aged 3-5 years, with only three months left for the new year.

Located in Barnsley, NSW, Sustainable Play Preschool takes the planet’s future seriously by serving 100% plant-based meals to pre-schoolers and developing a curriculum entirely around the ethos of environmental sustainability.

Preschool Director Kirsty Parker said the school’s teaching philosophy utilises play-based learning and an ‘I wonder’ approach, encouraging STEM activities and the holistic development of a child.

“We keep the doors to our outside playscapes open, to support children’s sense of agency,” Ms Parker said.

“Meals and snacks are brought down throughout the day, and offered progressively so that children are provided with large blocks of uninterrupted time to explore and learn. This also enables children to self-regulate and recognise their own needs for hunger.”

The meals are included in the preschool’s daily fees.

The meal and snacks menu is carefully crafted and thoroughly reviewed by a registered dietitian to be nutritious.

The menu is entirely compliant with Australian Dietary Guidelines for ages 3-6 years.

It features child-friendly, colourful and creative recipes like chickpea “tuna” sandwiches, carrot and zucchini muffins and acai banana “nice” cream, among other recipes.

Company Director Llewellyn Jones said the idea for plant-based preschool began in 2016 when he started sharing the concept of plant-based eating with children.

“Reactions to our menus have been overwhelmingly positive, with many community members wishing they could be Pre-schoolers again or that they’ll have to move closer to the Preschool in Barnsley, NSW,” Mr Jones said.

The Director of Vegan Australia, Greg McFarlane, welcomes the vegan lifestyle among young kids and hopes more schools in Australia will incorporate Vegan options in their menu.

“We are called Vegan Australia and we want everyone to follow a vegan lifestyle but it is a step by step process,” Mr McFarlane said.

“We would love to see schools and other institutions like hospitals have a 100% vegan diet but for now I believe they should have vegan options in addition to meat options.”

“Vegan food is not just healthy and delicious and it’s not just some sad looking salad.”

Mr McFarlane believes plant-based preschools will positively impact children, reduce global warming, and benefit the plant in the future.

“Children’s attitudes towards animals change and they see animals as sentient beings,” Mr McFarlane said.

“There is a psychological impact to make these kids better people. As people who eat meat do not always support animal cruelty so there is this cognitive dissonance- a conflicting view regarding eating meat. In young males, cognitive dissonance can lead to toxic masculinity and aggression.”

In a vegan lifestyle, kids get all the nutrients their body requires. The government has approved vegan diets for pregnant women and kids, and their guidelines say it is perfectly healthy.

“There are fast food chains incorporating veganism in their menu, which means you can have junk vegan food or you can be 100% healthy with vegan food. Veganism is independent of your eating habits, it’s a lifestyle,” Mr McFarlane said.

“The only thing we advise is for vegan people to take B12 supplements with their vegan diet.”

Sheetal Singh

Sheetal is a freelance journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Read more of her terrific work in School News magazine.

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