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Edinburgh Napier Meat Free Monday Case Study

1st Mar 2021 - 15:47
When did MFM start at Edinburgh Napier?

We trialled the scheme through December 2018 without any promotion to gather some feedback, and officially launched Meat Free Mondays at Edinburgh Napier in January 2019. It’s been going strong ever since!

How did it come about?

Environmental sustainability is something Edinburgh Napier University is passionate about and committed to, and we’re always looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint. Between 2006/7 and 2019/20, we had a carbon reduction of 65% through reducing our gas, water and electricity consumption.

We wanted to reduce the amount of meat that we use in our cooked lunches – partly for environmental benefits, and also to give vegetarian and vegan students more options. It also helps to raise awareness of the effect meat consumption has on the environment, and we want to encourage students to think about their meat consumption and try something new.

What’s the set up there?

We have catering outlets across all three of our campuses (Craiglockhart, Merchiston and Sighthill). Our main catering outlets are available for staff, students and visitors.

Do all food outlets participate?

Meat Free Mondays is concentrated on our main campus catering outlets where we served cooked lunches, but we also have smaller Starbucks cafes on campus.

How does MFM work?

On Mondays, all our cooked lunch options are vegetarian or vegan, including dishes such as gnocchi, vegetable frittatas, cauliflower wings and falafel with flatbread. Our soup is also vegan and we have a range of salad, sandwich and wrap options too.

Staff and students are still able to buy sandwiches that may include cold cuts of meat, but our hot main menu options for lunch are exclusively meat-free.

What sort of promotion is there?

When we launched Meat Free Mondays in January 2019, we created a campaign to make students feel like part of the conversation by interacting and engaging with them.

We ran a competition where students suggested vegetarian or vegan dishes they’d like to see on the menu. We got almost 100 replies and comments across Facebook and Twitter, and the winning dish was Gnocchi with Tomato and Basil, which remains on the menu to this day!

As well as promoting on Mondays on social media throughout the January launch period, we also produced posters and digital screens around campus.

Now that the initiative is more established, we focus our promotion around the start of the academic year and around key dates in the calendar, such as Climate Week and Veganuary. This involved posters, digital screens and social media posts.

How many people does it impact (i.e. roughly how many people eat Monday meals)?

Between January 2019 and January 2020, 8,629 Meat Free Monday vegetarian meals were sold across all our campuses. The year before, when campuses sold both meat and vegetarian options on Mondays, only 3,711 vegetarian dishes were sold. Thanks to Meat Free Mondays, we’ve more than doubled the number of vegetarian dishes sold on Mondays!

Furthermore, the initiative has had a positive impact on vegetarian meals sold in general. Between January 2019 and January 2020, we sold a total of 21,610 meat-free meals compared to 18,252 the previous year – an increase of 18%!

What was the initial reaction?

The reaction when we introduced the launch of Meat Free Mondays on social media was mixed, with about a 50/50 split of positive and negative comments on the posts. However, we received around 50 suggestions for vegetarian/vegan items to be included on the menu, which showed good engagement from staff and students and encouraged us to stand behind the campaign and promote the benefits of it.

How is it going now?

Meat Free Mondays has become a permanent feature of our campus menus. On our old 6-week menu cycle, 51% of our cooked meals were vegetarian or vegan. With our new 4-week menu cycle, 60% of our cooked meals are vegetarian or vegan.

The desire for more vegetarian and vegan options is something staff and students are vocal about – in our May 2019 catering survey, 14% of responses to the question “What could we improve on?” referred to adding more vegetarian and vegan options.

This has given us encouragement to continue with Meat Free Mondays. In January 2020 we turned Meat Free Mondays vegan, and also held a Vegan Food Festival which received positive feedback from students and staff.

A few quotes from yourselves and some students

Lorna Padden, Hospitality and Events Manager at Edinburgh Napier University:

“We introduced Meat Free Mondays to all our students and staff in January 2019. This was following feedback from our students and staff and to support the environmental and sustainability ethos of Edinburgh Napier University.

Vegetarianism and Veganism is not a trend, it’s here to stay. We constantly review our menus and engage with everyone to ensure we are offering a good, varied and healthy balance.

We work closely with our suppliers and during Freshers Week in 2019, we held a vegan pop up day where our students and staff were able to try different vegan options and vote if they wished for us to introduce new items based on what they had sampled.

We have a dedicated catering inbox where we ask both students and staff to email us with suggestions and improvements.

Our chef team are passionate about producing fresh fayre and introducing new food to all at the university. Our chefs share recipes, top tips about reducing waste and we recently introduced a plant-based menu to our daily hospitality, which has been well received.

Meat Free Mondays are here to stay at Edinburgh Napier University.”

Ankit, Heloisa & Nikhil - Edinburgh Napier Students' Association officers:

“Meat Free Mondays has a bigger influence than just promoting vegetarianism at the University. What it does is get students and staff thinking about their eating habits and allows for debate, discussion, and reflection on the way we eat and impact the environment.”

Indre, Petra, Juki & Emilia - Edinburgh Napier Sustainable Society student committee:

“Meat Free Mondays is such a great way to promote more plant-based diets and show our students and staff how easy it can be to reduce individual meat consumption. Great for our planet and our health!”

Juki – Student Treasurer of Edinburgh Napier Sustainable Society:

"I think Meat Free Mondays is a great initiative that shows everyone that a change into a more sustainable and environmental lifestyle doesn’t have to happen overnight and can be made in small steps and by reducing. It doesn’t feel like a big change to one person, but all students in the university who participate in this can be compared to small streams which eventually join into a big river that drives the change for the better."

Public Sector Catering's Plant-Based Week, takes place 17-21 May.  Find out more.


Written by
Rebecca Saunders