The Vegan Society is calling on all vegans to add their names to a petition requiring a nutritionally balanced hot vegan meal option on every school menu.
While the 2010 Equality Act places a duty on educators not to discriminate against vegan children and students, the government currently 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 do not specifically require schools to provide a vegan option.
However, vegan dad Aaron Browning from Crewe who started the petition, wants this changed and believes schools should be required to provide a nutritionally balanced, hot vegan meal on a daily basis. Aaron’s plight soon caught the eye of Chair of The Vegan Society's Education Network and the UK’s only vegan-inclusive education specialist, Laura Chepner.
The petition currently has 13,223 signatures yet the government will not consider debating the topic in parliament unless it surpasses 100,000 signatures.
Since signing it herself, Laura has now 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 it and then share it on the 1st of every month, for the next 4 months. So far Animal Justice Project, SURGE, Viva!, Plant Based Treaty and ProVeg International, amongst others, have added their names to the list.
Vegan Food for Children, a 2022 report by The Vegan Society, found a huge number of parents and guardians would welcome more vegan food options in school canteens, while a 2021 survey by BBC Good Food found 8% of children are following a vegan diet and 15% said they would like to.
Laura Chepner, Education Chair at The Vegan Society, explains the importance of the petition: “For many years now I have supported vegan learners and their parents and guardians in education to request plant-based dishes where there have been none. Some vegans were catered for but many others weren’t and still aren’t. Considering the public sector duty that all educators have towards their learners it is shocking that in this day and age vegan children are still being denied plant-based options.”
“The government needs to do more than just put the onus on the education sector to make ‘reasonable choices’. Education institutions need to better understand the needs of vegans and their canteen staff should be supported in making the transition to having plant-based options every day. Apparently ‘every child matters’ in an inclusive environment, but if the needs of vegan children are not being met then institutions cannot call themselves fully inclusive. So many petitions like this have come and gone over the years, we cannot let this one go – this is our chance to make a huge difference to the lives of vegan and vegan-curious children up and down the country.”
Once 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 that while it “recognises the importance of plant-based foods from a cultural and environmental point of view….meat must be served on three or more days each week and beyond this, schools may provide a meal with a vegan source of protein every day if they choose to.”
The Vegan Society strongly believes that in 2022 vegan options should be compulsory not optional. 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. After 10,000 signatures, petitions get a response from the government. After 100,000 signatures, petitions are considered for debate in Parliament.