Petition calls for more plant-based meals for schoolchildren in Brighton and Hove

Environmental campaigners are trying to gather support for more ‘plant-based meals’ in Brighton and Hove schools and council-run venues.

Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 10:33 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 1:45 pm
Campaigner Alison Plaumer, top, and Green councillor, Elaine Hills

One campaigner, Alison Plaumer, from Extinction Rebellion, has started a petition on Brighton and Hove City Council’s website which has attracted more than 240 signatures so far.

Ms Plaumer called for more plant-based school meals in a deputation to councillors backed by seven supporters at a meeting of the full council meeting last month.

The petition makes the same request, for two plant-based days at state-run schools as soon as possible – and for all council-run events to be plant-based once the pandemic is over.

In the petition, Ms Plaumer quotes Professor Michael Clark, from Oxford University, as saying: “Animal agriculture and fishing industries are leading causes of deforestation, ocean dead zones, water pollution, biodiversity loss and species extinction.

“Not only that, intensive animal farming poses a significant threat for the development of new pandemics and for furthered antibacterial resistance to emerge.”

Ms Plaumer also told the council last month: “Arguably, there is a racist element to serving dairy too much because 65 per cent of the world’s population are lactose intolerant, many from the BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) community.

“Loads of parents around here give lots of support to this. What do children want? They want action. They want it now.”

She said that professional organisations such as ProVeg could offer help to councils making the shift.

In her deputation, she told councillors that Enfield had stopped serving meat at council events, Lewisham had voted to provide exclusively plant-based options at its events and Leeds had introduced a meat-free day and another plant-based day a week across 182 schools.

Green councillor Elaine Hills responded to the deputation. Councillor Hills is deputy chair of the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee and has been a vegan for 28 years.

She said: “Plant-based food certainly has a much lower carbon footprint than a conventional diet. I agree it is something we should focus on to meet our carbon neutrality goals.

“The Green group has for a long-time campaigned for healthier and more environmentally friendly options being made available to support the health of pupils and the planet.”

Councillor Hills said that the council was working with school food supplier Caterlink to increase the number of plant-based dishes on the menu.

She said that schools across Brighton and Hove currently have two meat-free days every three weeks.

A vegan option was available every day for those children who are registered as vegans and a meat-free option was always available in schools.

Councillor Hills said: “Ensuring meals produced are healthy, popular and are consumed by children will have a positive effect on food waste production.

“Part of this process is education. We recently increased the amount spent on environmental education.

“As part of this, we would like to make sure that children in all our schools are learning about the carbon footprint of what they eat to help inform their decision making about the food choices they make.”

The deputation to increase the number of plant-based meals in schools and at council-run venues and events is due to go before the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee on Monday, June 14.