The Scottish government has agreed to include plant-based alternatives in a government-funded nursery milk scheme.
The move follows years of campaigning from The Vegan Society. It launched the Play Fair with Plant Milk initiative back in 2019 in response to ‘the inequality surrounding the favoring of animal milk’.
The Nursery Milk Scheme reimburses eligible childcare providers the cost of providing milk to children under five.
‘Discriminates against vegan pupils’
Since the scheme was first established in the 1940s, children under five years of age, who attend approved day care facilities, have been entitled to receive a third of a pint of cow’s milk each day, free of charge.
However, the scheme does not include fortified plant milks. The Vegan Society says this ‘indirectly discriminates against vegan pupils, who do not benefit from the vitamins and minerals available in fortified plant-milk’.
Now, funding will be available for daycare providers and childminders to provide unsweetened calcium-enriched soya drinks. It will be available for children over 12 months who cannot consume cow’s milk due to medical, ethical, or religious reasons.
Sabrina Ahmed is the Campaigns and Policy Officer at The Vegan Society. In a statement sent to PBN, she said: “We’re often contacted by parents of young children who describe the indirect discrimination they have faced due to the existing UK Nursery Milk Scheme.
“Many children have lost out on this free health benefit because of their ethical beliefs, which is unfair.”
Moreover, she added: “We’re delighted to see that the Scottish Government has now recognized this negative impact. And, that the new Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme is inclusive of those who cannot consume animal milk because of medical, religious or other beliefs.
“This sets a great precedent for other public health schemes to follow suit.”
Dietician Heather Russell also praised the move. She said: “This scheme recognizes the nutritional need for suitable alternatives to milk. It will help to ensure that vegan children receive the best care, including balanced food.”