Thailand is the newest country in which the international project Nourishing Tomorrow is landing. The initiative, coordinated by the NGO Sinergia Animal, aims to partner up with educational institutions, such as schools, universities, as well as companies and governmental institutions, and provide free support from dieticians and specialized chefs for them to serve greener meals by adding more plant-based options in their restaurants and cafes.
The goal is that at least one day a week, 100% plant-based meals will be offered to help the environment and human health — without giving up nutritional needs and delicious flavours, the project guarantees.
“Human health and sustainability are the two issues we are striving to tackle in Thailand,” states Janjaree Chianwichai, Nourishing Tomorrow Thailand Program Manager. “As the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) recommends, reducing consumption of animal products and increasing intake of plant-based foods are great opportunities to mitigate climate change.”
Starting from Colombia in 2019, Alimentando el Mañana or Nourishing Tomorrow has succeeded in getting commitments from eleven institutions in the Latin American country, with an estimated potential of serving 1.1 million plant-based meals per year. Colombia was a pilot project that had such good results and the NGO Sinergia Animal is now expanding this initiative to Thailand and other countries. Nourishing Tomorrow also started in Indonesia and Argentina in 2021.
“Research shows that the environment is the number one public concern in Thailand. We hope to connect the dot between the food we eat and the environmental footprint from our plate among Thais. Thailand is a very promising scenario to implement this program,” Chianwichai says.
She highlights that one of the best parts of the program is that professional services from chefs and dieticians are completely free of charge for the institutions that want to take part. Aside from that, the project makes sure the overall cost with the new menus are the same or even lower than the previous ones. Events to create awareness among employees, teachers, students and parents are also provided by the NGOs.
To make sure the menu is nutritionally appropriate and will please the students, the program works with accredited dieticians and chefs, who provide training for cooks who work in the institutional kitchens. Among the guidelines, Nourishing Tomorrow Thailand prioritizes local ingredients, promotes traditionally plant-based cuisine, as well as recreates local favorites’ meals as a full plant-based version, without compromising the signature taste.
Promoting More Sustainable And Healthier Diets in Global South Countries
According to the Strategy book 2020-2024 of the Department of Livestock Development of Thailand, per capita consumption of animal products grew every year from 2015 to 2019 in Thailand. The report covers fresh and processed meat, cooked meat, egg, milk, and dairy products. “This goes against several recommendations about what a sustainable and healthy eating habits should be like,” Chianwichai comments.
Even though Thailand produces a great quantity and variety of fruit and vegetables, on average Thai males consume daily only 268 g and females 283 g. While the World Health Organization’s minimum recommendation is 400 grams per person per day. Insufficient consumption of fruits and whole grains and high sodium intake are the main causes of death worldwide. Cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of diet-related deaths, followed by cancers and type 2 diabetes.
In addition to being healthier, a diet with more vegetables and less animal products is also more sustainable. Recent data shows that the changing diet of Thailand to more animal-origin food is affecting the environment. According to FAO, in 2018 Thailand’s agriculture sector contributed 61.29 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq), with 23.8% related to animal agriculture activities.
In Thailand, forest fires as part of forest encroachment to prepare land for monoculture agriculture, particularly maize, which has high market demands in Thailand have released pollutants into the air. The air quality in some parts of the north of Thailand measured 40 times above international standards. Thailand has been fighting air pollution problems for years.
Image Source: Travel Daily Media
“It is unquestionable that our current food system is harming the environment and our health as well. The clock is ticking, but we still have time to reverse it, if we start changing our diets now,” Chianwichai warns. “That is why we are very excited to arrive in Thailand and to start working with institutions committed to our future on this planet.”