Kindergarten under investigation for offering vegetarian-only meals to children
Published: Mar 04, 2021 07:02 PM
Kindergarten kids Photo: VCG

Kindergarten kids Photo: VCG

Education authorities in Southwest China's Sichuan Province launched an investigation on Thursday into a kindergarten that offers vegetarian-only meals to children. The kindergarten, which features "traditional culture," drew a backlash from netizens and concerns from nutritionists that it might leave kids malnourished. 

The kindergarten, located in Chengdu, was first brought to public attention after a blogger who promoted vegetarianism published an article on the special way the kindergarten educates the kids to respect life and nature by not giving them meat in their meals. 

According to the article, the school provides students with a wide variety of vegetarian meals to ensure they get the necessary nutrition and also teaches them how food is produced, how to protect the environment and how to get along with animals. 

While the article, which has already been deleted, won support from some of the blogger's followers, it also caused a stir among other netizens who were worried the meals might not provide enough nutrition the children need for their growth. 

Fan Zhihong, professor of the Department of Nutrition and Food Safety in China Agricultural University, said it is harder for schools to make a nutritionally balanced meal without meat.   

"The key lies in whether the all-vegetarian meal at the school is made under the guidance of professional child nutritionists to make it a balanced diet. If not, then the kids might face potential nutritional problems," she told the Global Times on Thursday, noting that vegetarian food offers fewer options that satisfy kids' needs.

Critics also questioned whether the school was formally regulated by the authorities, with some wondering if it was just "selling" vegetarian ideas to the students and society under the guise of "traditional culture."

The "Chinese traditional education" kindergarten adopts an education system used in ancient China, according to its introduction, in which students learn and recite Chinese classical texts such as the Four Books and Five Classics, and worship the Confucius statue.

However, netizens found it ironic that the school promotes non-meat meals to "show respect for" Chinese traditional culture, as there is no connection between the two, and even the sage Confucius, whom they worship, once gave guidance on how to eat meat delicately. 

Professor Fan focused more on whether the children's eating habits will be affected, noting that the parents and teachers should respect the children's own choice of whether they want to eat vegetarian food or not.

"There are many factors that should be considered when it comes to shaping children's eating habits. Social pressure and fewer choices of nutritionally balanced diet when eating outside are all potential challenges a vegetarian kid might face in our society," she said. 

In China, there are nearly 100 similar "Chinese traditional culture" kindergartens that also promote vegetarian meals for students, covering most provinces in the country, according to media reports.