Veggie Thursday, Ghent: Urban Food Policy Snapshot

by Alexina Cather, MPH

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Food Policy: Veggie Thursday, Ghent


The Veggie Thursday campaign was started by the non-governmental organization, Ethical Vegetarian Alternative (EVA), in Belgium, with the health of individuals and the planet in mind.

Meat consumption has been shown to have significant human and environmental impacts. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has assessed that 18 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are caused by animal farming.

Livestock produce methane, a gas which produces detrimental effects to the environment. It is now believed that methane has an even more significant effect than carbon dioxide. Apart from this, the meat industry also utilizes a lot of water and land. As far as individual effects are concerned, those whose diets contain a lot of meat have a greater chance of having high cholesterol. Through having high cholesterol, individuals increase their risk for heart and vascular diseases, certain cancers and diabetes. It can also lead to an increased risk for obesity. Due to these health concerns, the city of Ghent created the Veggie Thursday initiative.

Food Policy Category: Diet and Nutrition

Location of the Policy/ Program: Ghent, Belgium

  • Population: 257,029 (2016)
  • Fourth largest city in Belgium

Program/Policy Initiated: The initiative has been supported by the city of Ghent since 2009.

Progress to Date:

  • There appears to be favorable views on a local level about the campaign, with a great increase in knowledge overall pertaining to the importance of a vegetarian diet.
  • This campaign garnered mass media globally including locations such as Canada and Japan.
  • Within the country of Belgium, multiple cities began to follow suit.
  • It has become a part of the tourist industry, with individuals visiting and even expecting this to occur on Thursday.
  • Veggie Street maps, which offers information regarding restaurants that have only or mostly vegetarian options, have been translated to English.

Program Goals:

  • To eventually have the whole population of Ghent participate in the day and shift towards a diet with less animal products.
  • To allow the citizens of Ghent to try new and distinct food options to which they may not be accustomed.
  • To increase health due to the vast benefits of a diet lower in animal fats and cholesterol.
  • Decrease the amount of GHG emissions due to animal agriculture and, thus, favorably impact the effects of climate change.
  • Provide food and water for the animal agriculture industry is extensive, so this will allow more to go towards fellow individuals.
  • To save the lives of more animals.

How it Works:

  • This initiative consists of both an awareness campaign and providing practical help for consumers and professionals to shift towards a plant based diet through workshops, consulting, etc.
  • This campaign has been successful through the partnership with the EVA, which works in its daily activity to put forth the benefits regarding a plant-based diet.
  • On Thursday, both educational institutions and public health officials serve vegetarian meals.
  • There have been many initiatives created over the years to encourage individuals, companies, food professions, organizations and the like to engage with the concept of Veggie Thursday.
  • Through closely operating with the EVA, it makes it easier for Ghent to disseminate the information regarding Veggie Thursday.
  • Horeca is closely involved with the initiative, which requires guaranteed support from the City of Ghent and the EVA through its vegucation program. This is due to the fact that it is necessary that they prepare meals which comply with the standards of Veggie Thursday.
    • The restaurants participating are asked to make a nice and appealing vegetarian meal as the default option on Thursdays. Besides that, the participating restaurants have a vegetarian option in their menu on the other days. Through this participation, they get exposure on a “veggie map” and are put in a database which can be consulted by tourists and consumers in general.
  • There are many resources provided for individuals who work for government officials, including lunch meetings (vegetarian, of course) and veggie street maps.
  • They have gotten municipal and day-care-centres to participate in Veggie Thursday.
    • Parents are allowed to request that their child have meat.
    • Children that do not eat school lunches are requested to have a meatless sandwich filling on Thursdays.

Why the Policy/Program is Important:

  • This policy fits in with the goals laid out by the city of Ghent, including targeting the consumption of meat.
    • It was found that Flemish individuals tend to consume too high amounts of meat, which could result in the aforementioned health issues.
  • The Environmental Service believes that reducing meat consumption would result in a lessening of global degradation due to food.


  • As of 2013, one third of residents in Ghent participated in Veggie Thursday. In 2016, meat consumption was reduced even more. Twenty-five percent of residents only eat meat once a week and 20 percent eat meat a couple of times a month.
  • The Veggie Thursday campaign has won the Big Prize for Future Generations Award in 2009 and the Food and Health Award for Best Project in 2008.
  • Many restaurants are participating in Veggie Day, however, future chefs have to learn more about plant-based cooking so the EVA is focusing even more on introducing plant-based cooking in hotels and schools. Also, the EVA is working with big catering companies to help in the progress of this initiative.

Learn More:

Point of Contact:

Melanie Jacques, EVA:

Similar Practices:

  • On an international level, many cities wanted to copy the initiative, including places such as Los Angelos and Sao Paulo.
  • Meatless Monday
    • It is located in 36 countries and emphasizes the importance of cutting meat out of one’s diet at least once a week.


A big thank you to the EVA who helped in providing information regarding this Food Policy Snapshot.

Photo from EVA

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