The poll, which was commissioned by Linda McCartney Foods to mark National Vegetarian Week, quizzed 1,000 children between the ages of 8-16.
It discovered that 44 percent of school pupils have tried to cut meat from their diet, and 10 percent already live a meat-free lifestyle. As a result, the pollsters conclude that 'schools are under more pressure than ever to include more options on the lunch menu'.
'Kinder to animals'
When it comes to children's motivations for wanting to ditch meat, being 'kinder to animals' topped the chart, with 44 percent citing this reason. Almost a third (31 percent) cited fears for the environment, 29 percent said being healthier, and 19 percent said they just prefer vegetarian options.
"The high numbers of school pupils wishing there were more options on the school dinner menu means 23 percent of children have had to go hungry during a school day and another 34 per cent admit to spending money at the shops due to poor variety in the lunch hall," a spokesperson said in a statement sent to Plant Based News.
"Furthermore, 77 percent of meat-free youngsters admitted that they'd had to eat meat at some point because of the lack of options available to them."
Parents were quizzed as well, with 81 percent saying there are not enough healthy and tasty vegetarian options at their children's school and 73 percent said school dinners lack variety anyway. Almost half (45 percent) said if their child wants to become vegetarian they would be happy for them to make their own choice as long as it was healthy. Only 10 percent said they would not be happy if their child was entirely meat-free.
The study of 1,000 children between eight and 16 also showed that 26 percent of youngsters said they could be encouraged to become a vegetarian if they knew more about the welfare of animals. A further 23 percent said a variety of school dinner options would help, and the same number said knowing more about how meat impacts upon the environment would make them change their diet.
The poll is part of an initiative to inspire schools to go more meat-free. As part of the scheme, Trinity Primary school in Lewisham, London, will go meat-free for a week, with vegan cooking duo BOSH! performing a special cooking demonstration for the whole school.
"Young people really care about the environment and climate change, it is one of the greatest threats to their futures," Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, Co-founders of BOSH!, said. "We're seeing a continuous change in attitudes towards food all around the world and it's amazing that in the UK one in 10 children are now meat-free, with that number growing.
"Their research shows a whopping 70 percent of school children want to see more vegetarian and vegan options at school lunches, which can't be ignored. We hope by working with Linda McCartney Foods we can educate the decision makers within schools on how delicious vegetarian and vegan food is and the nutritional benefits of going meat-free."