Tag Archives: vegan food

CANCELLED: 22 Aug: Picnic in Hebden Bridge

UPDATE: Apologies, due to the heavy rain this weekend, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our picnic event. It would not be much fun to sit on saturated ground without shelter. If you have emailed us to confirm you were going to come, please look out for a new reply.

Come and join us for our annual pot luck picnic! This year we will of course be following government instructions and keeping a safe social distance throughout, and sadly not sharing food this time.

  • Sunday, 22nd August 2021 at midday.
  • Calder Holmes Park, Hebden Bridge
  • Meet between the cafe and the path to the railway station (see photo).

As usual, everyone is welcome to come along, we just ask that you only bring vegan food or drink (thank you for respecting the wishes of our vegan members). Please bring your own cutlery and plate. We will probably be sitting on the ground, so you may wish to bring a portable seat or blanket.

If you want to come, please send us an email. Dogs are welcome too. If the weather is bad, we may have to cancel, check here or look out for an email if it comes to that.

See you there!

Featured image by Carroll Pierce, CC BY SA 2.0

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. 

You and your gut microbiome!

What is the microbiome?

Did you know that there are as many microorganisms living inside and on you as there are cells in your entire body?  That means that half of your body is made up of other living beings – microorganisms – which are so small that they can only been seen through a microscope. Microorganisms include bacteria, fungi, protozoa, algae and viruses. They live in and on different parts of your body but most of them are in your digestive tract (gut) and most of the microorganisms in the gut that affect your health are bacteria. Collectively, all these microorganisms are called the microbiome (or microbiota) and recent research indicates that the microbiome has a huge impact on your health!

Everyone’s microbiome is unique to them with different numbers and types of microorganisms; some of which are good for you and some are not. There is still so much we don’t know about the microbiome but this article will discuss how the it affects our health and what you can eat to improve your own microbiome.

The microbiome and our health

Many different factors affect your microbiome including how you were born (e.g. by caesarian), whether you live with other animals, lifestyle factors, such as diet and exposure to toxins, use of antibiotics and other medicines and stress. These factors affect both the number of bacteria, the types of bacteria and the diversity (how many different species there are).  Everyone’s microbiome is different and there is now research looking at how different foods could be used with different people to improve their health.

The bacteria and other organisms in the gut depend on us for their survival but they also give us something back, as long as they are healthy and there is a good variety of bacteria. Some bacteria that live in our gut are good for us, some don’t have any effect and some are not so good for us. The ones that are good for us can do lots of different things, for instance:

  • Produce nutrients such as vitamin K and some of the B vitamins.
  • Digest some types of fibres to produce short chain fatty acids and gases which fight a number of diseases (more about these later).
  • Produce chemicals that inhibit the growth of other microorganisms that cause disease e.g. Clostridium difficile and E. coli.
  • Produce other chemicals that interact with the nervous system or reduce levels of inflammation in the body.

There are many different ways in which we think the microbiome helps to prevent disease. For instance, it is particularly important for a healthy immune system. The body interacts in a complex way with the microorganisms in your gut to improve your immune response to infection so that you can fight off the invading bacteria or viruses without fighting your own cells and organs.

Some species of bacteria in your gut produce chemicals called short chain fatty acids which are vital in tackling a range of diseases. For instance, one of these short chain fatty acids called butyrate provides energy for a type of human cell that destroys cancer cells. Butyrate also helps to regulate glucose levels. Another short chain fatty acid called propionate regulates the body’s feeling of fullness after eating. Acetate, another short chain fatty acid, regulates cholesterol in the blood and again may help to regulate appetite.

Some microorganisms produce chemicals which produce an inflammatory effect in the body whilst others produce an anti-inflammatory effect. Inflammation is linked to a wide range of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

There is increasing evidence that the microbiome is linked to a healthy brain and to your mental health. For instance, research suggests that eating certain foods can improve your feeling of well being and a healthy microbiome is involved in the production of the brain hormone serotonin which helps to stabilise your mood and make you feel happy.  Other research suggests that conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are more likely in people with an unhealthy microbiome.

Unhealthy bacteria produce chemicals which help to cause disease, such as a chemical called TMAO which raises the risk of heart disease. TMAO is produced by the bacteria in the gut when you eat animal products, so vegans are at an advantage here.

The microbiota may also play a part in the development of obesity. People who are obese have different microbiota from healthy weight people. In fact, recent trials have taken place to assess whether transplanting microbiota from the gut of a healthy person into an obese person can improve their recipient’s microbiota, although the findings have so far been inconclusive.

At present research indicates that the microbiome is also linked to a range of other conditions and diseases such as autism and allergies. Sadly, many of the studies that show these links have been done on mice and it isn’t clear how the findings translate to humans.

What can you do to keep your microbiota healthy?

Foods which produce an unhealthy microbiome are processed foods, foods high in sugar, alcohol and animal-based foods. So, the key is to reduce these and increase healthy foods which are those that your beneficial bacteria need to survive. These foods are carbohydrate rich plant foods and are collectively called prebiotics. This means a varied plant-based diet with a wide range of unprocessed vegetables, fruits, nuts and pulses; these all contain the fibre which your healthy bacteria love. Research shows that the greater the variety of food eaten, the better the diversity of the microbiota. If your diet is currently low in plant foods, build up the amount of fibre slowly so that your gut bacteria have a chance to adapt.

In addition to prebiotics, research also suggests that probiotics may be useful. These are foods which already include the healthy live bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, in them. Probiotics are fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and live (plant-based) yoghurt. Other foods may contain probiotics, such as tempeh, miso and some nut cheeses.

To summarise, eat lots of different types of mainly unprocessed plants and include a variety of plant-based probiotics.


Words by Liz Readle, Certificate in Plant-based Nutrition, University of Winchester

Image by Geralt via Pixabay

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

CANCELLED: 9 Aug: Socially distant picnic in Hebden Bridge

∙∙∙∙∙∙∙ We have cancelled this event for obvious reasons following the new government rules. ∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙

Come and join us for our annual pot luck picnic! This year we will of course be following government instructions and keeping a safe social distance throughout, and sadly not sharing food this time.

  • Sunday, 9th August at midday.
  • Calder Holmes Park, Hebden Bridge
  • Meet between the cafe and the path to the railway station (see photo).

As usual, everyone is welcome to come along, we just ask they you only bring vegan food or drink (thank you for respecting the wishes of our vegan members). Please bring your own cutlery and plate. We will probably be sitting on the ground, so you may wish to bring a portable seat or blanket.

If you want to come, please send us an email. Dogs are welcome too. If the weather is bad, we may have to cancel, check here or look out for an email if it comes to that.

See you there!

Featured image by Carroll Pierce, CC BY SA 2.0

26 Jul: Foodie Friday stall at Tod market, can you help?

Monthly Foodie Friday events are running this summer and autumn in Calderdale. “A feast for the senses on the last Friday of each month.” 3 Valley Vegans are hosting a stall on Todmorden open air market on Friday, 26 July 2019.

Foodie Friday (Fryday) Todmorden Markets

Our information stall will be a celebration of veganism and will promote all things vegan. We will provide information about how and why to go vegan and where to buy and eat vegan food in the area. There will be vegan recipes demonstrated and written down for people to take away and free samples of vegan food for people to try.  If anyone would like to help out either by baking or creating some food samples to give away or by helping out on the stall then please contact Hilary on hils46@yahoo.co.uk. Even a few hours would be wonderful.

  • 3 Valley Vegans vegan food and information stall
  • Friday, 26 July 2019
  • Start: 9am (time TBC)
  • Finish: 7pm or earlier (time TBC)
  • Even if you could come for an hour or two, that would be great
  • Location: Todmorden outdoor market, OL14 5AJ

Contact: Hilary on hils46@yahoo.co.uk

Edit: Photos from the event