City Council Considers Cutting Meat from School Cafeterias

Reykjavík Housekeeping School Kitchen

Reykjavík City Council is considering reducing or eliminating meat in the city’s school and municipal cafeterias, RÚV reports. City Councillor Lif Magneudóttir says the move would be in line with the city’s goals to reduce its environmental impact. An open letter from the Icelandic Vegan Society calling for the elimination of animal products on school menus has city councillors, parents, and farmers debating what’s best for the environment – and children’s health.

Vegans call for change

The Icelandic Vegan Society published an open letter last week addressed to Iceland’s Minister for the Environment, as well as the government and local councils across the country calling for eliminating or significantly reducing animal-based products on school menus in light of their impact on the environment. “Agriculture accounts for 13% of Iceland’s emissions,” the letter reads. “About 50% of these agricultural emissions are methane emissions due to animal farming, and methane gas is a greenhouse gas 25 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.”

Council considers

City Councillor Lif Magneudóttir says the council is considering significantly reducing animal-based products in Reykjavík’s primary school cafeterias. Lif, who represents the Left Green Movement, also sits on the City’s School and Leisure Committee, says the move is in line with the city’s climate action plan. “I think it makes sense and I think it’s clear to everyone that we plan to take some action,” Lif stated. “We adopted a food policy last term that we are implementing now and we are going to review the climate action plan and this fits in with that very well.”

Lif says primary schools cafeteria menus were updated a few years ago, and their staples are currently vegetables, fruit, and milk, offering fish twice weekly and meat once or twice per week. “It’s very unanimous in this majority to look at these issues comprehensively and secure the resources needed to truly implement what we have agreed upon and is good for people and the environment.”

Opposition councillor Eyþór Arnalds of the Independence Party does not agree with Lif. In a Facebook post about the matter, he stressed the importance of eating local food and saying “fish and meat in Iceland is in a class of its own. No, if left-wing members of the city council want to lessen their carbon footprint, it would be appropriate for them the start with themselves. But let our children have good and varied food.”

Vegetables and variety

Hólmfríður Þorgeirsdóttir, a nutritional specialist at the Directorate of Health, also emphasised the importance of a varied diet when asked about the menu changes. “It’s quite possible to put together a menu without meat and then increase milk, eggs, and fish. But the more foods are excluded the more difficult this becomes,” she stated. “Increasing plant-based products is positive, both in terms of health and environmental issues and in accordance with the directorate’s recommendations.”

Eleven Tonnes of Mushrooms Per Week Not Enough for Icelanders

Iceland’s sole mushroom farmer produces 11 tonnes of mushrooms per week, but this is still not enough to meet domestic demand for the tasty fungi. Vísir reports that the popularity of keto and vegan diets among Icelanders has led to dramatic increase in the consumption of locally grown mushrooms.

Flúðasveppir (‘Flúðir Mushrooms,’ named for the region in South Iceland in which they are located) is an established company that grows three varieties of mushroom: white, brown chestnut, and portobello. It employs 30 inviduals.

“Yes, there’s a health wave,” remarked owner Georg Ottósson. “We’re well-suited for vegan [diets] and keto as well, such that we’re in fashion right now. It’s fun to be in fashion, because it creates a foundation on which to produce good products that sell well.”

Georg says that there are plans to expand the facilities in Flúðir so that the company will be able to produce enough mushrooms to meet domestic demand.