Time is running out for people to add their names to The Vegan Society’s petition requesting the government to make a daily hot vegan meal option mandatory for every school.
The petition, spearheaded by vegan granddad Aaron Browning, was launched in April and now has nearly 23,000 signatures. It needs to reach 100,000 by 17 August to have the topic debated in Parliament.
While the 2010 Equality Act places a duty on educators not to discriminate against vegan children and students, currently, the government only asks that schools make 'reasonable choices' when deciding whether to cater for vegans in their care. Meanwhile, the School Food Regulations 2014 introduced requirements for schools to provide portions of certain foods, but not specifically a vegan option.
However, Mr Browning, who is from Crewe, believes schools should be required to provide a nutritionally balanced, hot vegan meal on a daily basis. Aaron’s mission caught the eye of Chair of The Vegan Society's Education Network and the UK’s only vegan-inclusive education specialist, Laura Chepner.
Since signing it herself, Laura has made it her mission to get the petition in front of key policymakers and government officials. She has written letters and emails to more than 100 vegan brands, manufacturers, businesses, MPs, charities, influencers and celebrities, asking them to sign and share the petition.
And now, with the deadline looming, the Education Chair is urging yet more vegans, teachers, parents and guardians to sign and share the petition in a bid to reach the 100,000 milestone.
She said: “So many petitions like this have come and gone over the years - we just cannot let this one go. Veganism is a characteristic protected by law and this should be reflected across the public sector – not least in schools which play a significant role in the lives and futures of our children and young people.
I have supported vegan learners and their families in education to request plant-based dishes where there have been none for many years. Some vegans were catered for but many others weren’t and still aren’t.
There also needs to be support for caterers to be able to deliver nourishing and wholesome plant-based dishes. Normalising and embracing vegan-friendly meals will make a huge difference to inclusivity and to ensuring the government finally makes good on its claim that ‘every child matters’.”
In its early days, when the petition surpassed 13,000 signatures, the government responded with this seven-paragraph statement, declaring that it expects head teachers and governors “to act reasonably and to work with parents to provide choices that meet dietary and cultural needs, including veganism.”
It goes on to say it recognises the importance of plant-based foods from a cultural and environmental perspective, and that schools can choose to provide a vegan source of protein daily, on the condition meat is served at least three days a week.
But The Vegan Society strongly believes that, in 2022, vegan options should be compulsory, and the noncommittal statement only serves to highlight the importance of triggering a debate on this issue by reaching the goal of 100,000 signatures and thereby strengthening the case for vegans’ right to inclusivity. To add your name to the petition just click here: Require schools provide a vegan meal option every day - Petitions (parliament.uk). The petition will end on 17 August 2022 when it will be considered for debate in Parliament.