The city of Porvoo is trying to get young people to eat more vegetarian and vegan foods by offering them at schools and day care centres.
Porvoo is a city and municipality on the southern coast of Finland, about 50 km east of Helsinki with a population of about 50,000. The city's food services chief Harriet Ekholm said mitigating global climate change is one of the chief reasons for encouraging young people to eat more vegetables, rather than meat.
"The city of Porvoo's strategy includes taking climate change into consideration. Vegan food is a climate-smart alternative," Ekholm said.
While schools and day care centres offer vegetarian meals every day, youngsters are able to decide for themselves whether they eat vegetarian or meat-based meals. Or they can eat both.
"We hope that we can spark the students' interest and give them the courage to try [new] foods. If the vegetarian food is good, they can have another helping," she said.
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Ekholm is about to retire from her job, but her incoming replacement Sanna Nyman said she thinks the vegetarian strategy is a good thing.
"We're forerunners in Finland. It's good that Porvoo is taking a step forward with this [initiative]," Nyman said.
A root vegetable soup was the first official vegan menu item at schools and day cares offered on Monday.
"It's a soup that's been well-liked anyway. It gets eaten up. But the hummus which was served alongside it was a bit unusual [for the students]," Ekholm said, adding that it will likely take a few tries for youngsters to get used to the chick pea and ground sesame-based dip.
So far, the planned vegan menus do not appear to involve any extra costs, according to Nyman.
City schools and day care centres will be serving the once-a-week vegan options throughout the remainder of the school year. At the beginning of summer the city will decide whether to continue with the programme.