Tag Archives: children

Feed our Future: providing meat-free and plant-based school meal options for all

FEED OUR FUTURE: Calderdale 

Sometimes it can seem hard enough to get a school just to provide vegan meals for vegan pupils. Many parents have faced this battle. Feed Our Future aims to go much further than this. Working with ProVeg UK and Plant-based Health Professionals, the campaign wants schools to have two meat-free days every week and offer attractive plant-based options on the other three days. Asking for two meat-free days per week doesn’t display lack of ambition – it’s all that’s possible under the current School Food Standards, which require meat to be served three days per week, dairy five days per week and fish once every three weeks. The Standards are due for review but there is no timetable for this so far. 

Where local authorities have declared a climate emergency, this proposal can be presented as a measure which will help them to meet their climate change targets. Plant-based menus also improve children’s consumption of fruit and veg and are more inclusive in terms of dietary and religious requirements.  

Calderdale has declared a climate emergency – indeed it was one of the first to do so – but does not have control of school meals, delegating the matter to individual schools or groups of schools. There are also several academy schools which are not under local authority control at all. However, Calderdale is working with an organisation called Food for Life, which is part of the Soil Association. Liz and Myra  met the Calderdale lead from Food for Life, and found her to be very responsive to our proposal. Indeed, they had already trialled some plant-based meals with school caterers. Unfortunately, the cooks were not impressed and considered that the children would not like the food.  

We are undeterred, however, and have held a second meeting attended also by Colette Fox of ProVeg UK. By means of its School Plates programme, ProVeg UK has an innovative approach to designing menus in a way to make all kinds of food appealing to children, and also provides free training to school catering teams 

Our next step is to set up a meeting with the Calderdale Public Health officer with responsibility for sustainable food. We hope she will be able to help us make some vital contacts with school heads. 

Food for Life so far works with 11 local authorities in the north of England and the midlands. We hope via this campaign to be able to make a difference to school food in Calderdale and beyond. Watch this space! 

FEED OUR FUTURE: Bradford 

3 Valley Vegans member Anne Taylor lives in the Bradford area, where the situation is different from Calderdale. Read about her experiences campaigning on school food. 

Following my own family experience of trying to get vegan school meals under the free school meals system unsuccessfully until near the end of the free period, I have been writing to councillors and my MP in Bradford. Emails to my MP have resulted in communications between myself and Vicky Ford MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, regarding the School Food Standards, which make it mandatory for schools to provide meat 3 times a week and dairy every day to all school age children. I have found out the School Food Standards are underpinned by the Scientific Advisory Committee for Nutrition (SACN) with their public health nutritionist a member of the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board beef and lamb sector board and acting chair. The AHDB provides educational resources for schools about where our food comes from, though no mention of the impact on the planet.  

I have discovered there are many groups involved in trying to change the school meals system, and recently came across Joe Brindle’s campaign Teach the Future, which is about making all school subjects include climate change education. I have emailed Joe regarding the importance of the food provided at schools too which he has replied to and agreed food is something that needs to be looked into, so is passing on to his team. 

I have emailed various councillors with influence over health or the climate emergency but have had a poor response so far. I have also made a Freedom of Information request for a list of which schools get their meals from private catering companies and which have school meals provided by the council. I am awaiting a reply. 

I believe the more people who contact their MP or councillors or talk to schools about this the greater the chance that change will eventually come. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to focus on the Feed Our Future campaign for two days meat free days per week. 

Vegan school meals: why should they be available for all and how can I help?

3 Valley Vegans is informing parents about campaigns to get vegan school meals on the menu for all school children. Some Calderdale schools are now providing vegan meals for those requesting it, but we believe vegan meals should be available for all, as an option, for the environment, health and the animals.

Why support vegan meals in schools?

There are many sources to consider which advocate or encourage plant-based diets for all ages:

  • Veganism is supported by the Human Rights Act 1998 Article 9 which protects personal beliefs including veganism. This has been reinforced in a 2020 legal case in which ethical veganism was confirmed as a protected belief under the 2010 Equality Act in the same way as religious beliefs. The case therefore removes any doubt that it is illegal to discriminate against vegans by treating them less favourably than others i.e. not catering for them with vegan meals that are as equally nutritious as those served to non-vegan pupils.  Also, there is a wealth of evidence that shows a vegan diet to be healthy, and to be preventative with diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes (see the China Study). Many children suffer from dairy intolerance, which may cause eczema, who for health reasons need to avoid dairy.
  • The World Health Organisation states processed meat is a group one carcinogen, and red meat which includes beef, lamb and pork as a group 2 carcinogen. In the WHO School Policy 2008 framework it states “A nutritious diet should meet the nutrient and energy needs of students and be based on a variety of foods originating mainly from plant-based sources.”
  • The British Dietetic Society recognise that a well-planned plant based diet is suitable for every age and lifestyle, and the NHS confirm this.

By providing a vegan option in schools, the government will be addressing human rights, environment, health (government guidelines encourage us to eat more fruit and veg, 5 a day, as recommended by WHO), and poverty (free school meals for vegan children).

What can I do as a parent?

ProVeg offer support to schools on how to increase the intake of vegetables, fruits and other plant-based foods.

The Vegan Society have a template letter which families can use when writing to schools. They also have letters for caterers and educators too.

Calderdale Council no longer provides any catering to schools.  Therefore, we suggest you write to individual schools, although some schools provide the catering for a number of others in the area and deliver prepared meals daily. Nevertheless, it may be worth referring to a Calderdale Council internal human resources policy, introduced recently in response to the climate emergency, that requires meals and catering at Council events to be plant-based by April 2021.  This is relevant since many school staff (not academies) still receive their salaries via the Council.

Did you know that it’s still mandatory for school caterers in England to serve meat, fish, and dairy? Sir Paul McCartney, MPs, and environmental, health, and other groups have asked the government to revise these guidelines so that schools have a choice in the matter. Add your name to the healthy children’s meals petition by PETA UK.

In summary, have a look at the template letter or better yet craft your own using the sources above. Write to your children’s school, or the one where their food is prepared and ask what they are doing to support you. Add your name to the healthy meals petition.

Image by Andrzej Rembowski from Pixabay