Healthy (Best) Start Scheme
The Healthy Start Scheme (soon to be Best Start Foods scheme in Scotland) is a government initative that enables low-income families to purchase fruit and vegetables, milk and some vitamins with vouchers.
The scheme does not currently allow for plant milk alternatives to be purchased with the vouchers, which means that low-income vegan families do not get the full benefit of the scheme.
The Vegan Society wrote to the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC)in March 2019 about this issue, highlighting the indirect discrimination that this scheme caused for vegans. Vegan Society staff met with representatives from the DHSC in May to discuss broadening the scheme to include fortified plant milks. The DHSC were open to this possibility and would be carrying out research to ensure that the plant milks would be able to meet the schemes goals.
Statement from Department of Health & Social Care following our meeting:
"The Vegan Society were pleased to meet representatives of the Department of Health and Social Care, the Scottish Government, and Public Health England on 8 May to talk about the Healthy Start Scheme and the Best Start Foods Scheme (which will begin in Scotland later in 2019). During an informative and productive meeting we discussed vegan alternatives to the dairy-based products currently allowed under both schemes. The Department of Health and Social Care and the Scottish Government agreed to keep in touch with The Vegan Society regarding developments on the Healthy Start and Best Start Foods Schemes."
Ultimately, the DHSC will be able to make recommendations for changes to the scheme, but the items included in the scheme are specified by legislation, so we will need political support to back any changes to the scheme.
To help further the campaign and get fortified plant milks included in the Healthy Start (and Best Start) schemes, please write to your political representative, to highlight this issue and urge them to back any changes.
EU School Milk scheme
On 19 July 2019 we wrote to the Chair of the EU AGRI (Agricultural and Rural Development) Committee to outline why the EU School Milk scheme currently discriminates against vegans by not including fortified plant milk in the schemes.
We received a response from the Chair of the EU AGRI Committee dated 30 July, which explained that the scheme does not cover plant milks and that the European Court of Justice has ruled that dairy terms can only be used for marketing animal milk products and not plant-based alternatives. They also highlight the way that new legislation arises within the European Union means that the parliament (including the AGRI Committee) cannot initiate new or amendments to laws, these have to comd from the European Commission.
We will soon be challenging the European Commission on this issue.
School Food Standards
We sent a letter to the Department for Education on 19 July 2019, asking for their thoughts on including fortified plant milk alongside animal milk in the mandatory daily milk section of the standards.
UN School Milk Day (25 September)
The UN FAO (Food & Agriculture Organisation) initative 'World School Milk Day' currently works to promote consumption of animal milk in schools. On 19 July 2019 we wrote to the Head (and incoming Head) of the UN FAO outlining why the initative currently excludes vegan children and that they could rectify this by including fortified plant milks in the celebrations.