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.