The APPG’s meeting on improving vegan options in public sector catering

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» The APPG’s meeting on improving vegan options in public sector catering

On Wednesday 8th November 2023 the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vegetarianism and Veganism, supported by The Vegan Society and Vegetarian for Life, held a meeting to discuss the importance of improving vegan options throughout public sector catering.

 All-Parliamentry Group on Vegetarianism and Veganism event banner

The meeting was a chance to uncover the experience of vegans accessing food in their local councils, hospitals, schools and care homes and to facilitate conversation among stakeholders to understand what the Government and local authorities could and should be doing to improve provision.

Claire Ogley, Head of Policy, Campaigns and Research at The Vegan Society, opened the meeting by presenting the findings of The Vegan Society’s latest report, Catering for Everyone: How far are councils across the UK catering to vegans?  which showed that, despite veganism being a protected belief under UK law, many councils are not taking the necessary steps to be inclusive of veganism. Claire emphasised that veganism needs to be recognised at all levels of central and local government and said that local authorities should be going even further than this to reduce meat and dairy consumption in the areas for which they are responsible, in order to meet environmental targets. She called on the Government to legislate to ensure that at least one nutritious vegan option be guaranteed on every public sector menu in the UK.

Councillor Ria Patel, Equalities and Diversities Spokesperson for Croydon Council and a vegan of five years, spoke about the difficulties sometimes faced by vegans in accessing appropriate food in the public sector. She shared her own experience by highlighting that although the council tend to provide vegetarian options at meetings and events, there were not vegan options offered as standard. Ria stressed that councils have the authority to lead by example in the community, and to normalise the provision of plant-based food for everyone.

Councillor Marisa Heath, Cabinet member for Environment at Surrey County Council and Founder of the Plant-Based Food Alliance, mentioned the need to include food and diet in the Council’s Environment strategy and to show that farmers can be supported in this transition to a more sustainable food system. Marisa also highlighted the different ways people can lobby their local authority for change – including by contacting their local councillors/council, submitting public questions to council (which can be done by email) and attending meetings to show the individuals working in local government that this issue is important to their voters.

The session also heard from Councillor Ian Middleton, Oxfordshire County Council, whose local authority ranked top five in The Vegan Society’s report due to its decision to adopt 100% plant-based catering for external events in order to meet environmental goals. Ian shared how the council passed a motion whereby catering for all full council meetings should be fully plant-based. Schools were also encouraged to include one vegan day per month and have at least one vegan option on the menu at all times. Ian additionally spoke about the need for catering to reflect a future workforce of young people who are increasingly becoming vegetarian and vegan, as well as safeguarding the future of the planet, and the creatures that inhabit it.

Finally, Amanda Woodvine, Chief Executive of Vegetarian for Life, discussed the negative experiences of vegans in hospitals and shared examples of best practice in the care sector that should be adopted to improve these kinds of issues – such as having a larger quantity and variety of vegan options, commissioning a nutritional analysis of menus to ensure they contain the right nutrition, and promotional posters in canteens to show the environmental impact of animal agriculture. She mentioned that many big companies are starting to set food carbon targets so we will naturally see a shift in more sustainable options as a result of this.

Find out more about The Vegan Society’s Catering for Everyone campaign, including how your council was ranked in the report and what actions you can take to support the campaign. Visit the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vegetarianism and Veganism website for further information on their work. 





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