Start date: 01/12/2018

Date of completion: 31/10/2021

SUSTAINMEALS – Sustainable School Meals – Unlocking the potential of the public plate towards a largescale transition to plant-based meals in schools

A transition towards reduced meat consumption and a more plant-based diet has been called for to address sustainability and health challenges in diets. However, such a transition will likely require a profound societal change. Current evidence on meat consumption and substitution points towards the presence of structural barriers to shifting to more plant-based diets, and large segments of consumers are not willing to change their meat eating habits, even when acknowledging benefits of more plant-based diets.

Against this backdrop, SUSTAINMEALS adopts an integrated approach to promote a large-scale, nationwide shift towards more healthy and sustainable plant-based meals, focusing both on individual consumer-level variables and on shared context-based variables. It has two main proximal objectives. The first is to expand knowledge on how to encourage consumers and empower providers in large scale catering/meal-contexts to shift to more healthy and sustainable plant-based meals. The second is to design and test an evidence-based toolkit which translates this knowledge into practice.

In meeting with these proximal objectives, the project targets the catering services of all public schools of the country. It takes momentum with the transition and unique window of opportunity opened with a recent parliamentary approval that makes it mandatory to include plant-based meals in the offer of school catering services. In two phases, which comprise five tasks, the project will draw on and develop a methodological framework to map barriers and facilitators of transition, and an intervention design tool to bolster service capability, as well as consumer choice, acceptance, and positive appraisal of plant-based meals.

To deliver these tasks, SUSTAINMEALS builds on the disciplinary backgrounds and previous findings of the research team, that has been working on complementary approaches to the study of meat consumption/substitution and plant-based diets, behavioural change interventions in health-related topics and eating habits, and research on food policy and consumption practices with a focus on sustainability and dietary shifts.

The project will yield meaningful outcomes to improve knowledge and theory on how to develop integrated – but differentiated – approaches to promote large-scale practice shifts, and inform a variety of fields and audiences interested in promoting sustainable living and health improvements, through dietary choice.

João Graça (coord.), Mónica Truninger.