All children in year 1 and 2 in England and Wales are entitled to free school meals under the universal free school meal system.
But mum Laura Chepner was told that vegan meals were off the menu for her daughter Lois at Hazlehurst Primary in Ramsbottom as it is a lifestyle choice – and not down to an allergy or religion.
Vegan meal campaign
So Chepner contacted a local councilor in a bid to get the school to offer vegan food, and also discovered that veganism is supported by the Human Rights Act 2010.
She told the Manchester Evening News that Bury Council, along with the school’s headteacher and chef started creating a vegan-friendly menu for Lois.
“The headteacher was supportive from the start. I worked with them to show how we bring vegan food into their menu…It’s not just a personal victory for us but for vegans in general. Hopefully it will have a ripple effect across other schools in the borough,” she said.
Fresh, tasty – and vegan
A spokesman for Bury Council said: “Our aim is to provide children with high quality, healthy and affordable food choices. We know that fresh and tasty food is fundamental to young people’s health and academic achievement.
“All of our schools offer a meat-based dish and a non-meat alternative each day. Schools also, at the request of parents, offer meals to pupils which meet special dietary or cultural requirements.
“Veganism is becoming more popular, and as such we have been running a trial project for the last nine months with two primary schools – Guardian Angels and Bury and Whitefield Jewish Primary – offering a vegan choice to pupils whose parents request it. We are also now providing vegan meals to particular children at Hazelhurst and our Lady of Lourdes.”
Advocating for vegan meals
The Vegan Society offers advice on how to advocate for vegan meals in educational institutions, saying: “Whether you’re a vegan student, or looking after vegan students, asking for vegan-friendly school catering is a really constructive step.
“If you are able, do some research, try to stay calm and positive, and be patient and persistent. You are helping the school with their healthy eating and environmental aspirations, as well as with equality for all.
“Experts agree that well-planned vegan-friendly, plant-based meals can support healthy living throughout childhood. At the very least, the school must let students bring in healthy, appropriate packed lunches. Working together, though, we can bring exciting, appealing vegan-friendly hot lunches to as many more schools.”