A petition launched by ProVeg International has accrued almost 50,000 (49,200) signatures. It implores the EU to implement widespread change by offering calcium-fortified plant-based milk options with school meals.
The petition, launched in June, lobbies for dairy milk alternatives as proactive climate action that youngsters can engage with. This forms one of three “urgent reasons” why the European school fruit, vegetables, and milk scheme should include oat milk.
Environmental reasons for milk diversity
The climate crisis will impact children’s futures. This is the key driving point for ProVeg.
The organization draws comparisons between plant and cow’s milk carbon footprints. The latter falls short of sustainable targets by generating three times the greenhouse gas emissions as soya milk. Other plant varieties, including oat, claim similarly reduced emissions levels.
“Plant-based milks fortified with calcium are sustainable and healthy options that should be included in the school scheme as European society shifts towards a more plant-based diet.” Said Jasmijn de Boo, vice president of ProVeg, in a statement.
“Offering plant-based milks will help the EU to decarbonize society. At the same time, it will allow for greater choice for those who do not want to drink cow’s milk with their school meal.”
Taking health and choice into account
Animal welfare and autonomy of choice complete ProVeg’s petition rationale, with the two inextricably linked. As concern about animal rights increases throughout Europe, ProVeg maintains that offering cruelty-free and nutritious meal options is essential.
“Both the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy and the Beating Cancer plan recommend adopting more plant-based diets. This includes plant-based alternatives to conventional dairy products,” de Boo said. “We urge the Commission to embrace the opportunity with this review to make calcium-fortified plant-based milks eligible products in the scheme and thus ensure greater choice of milk drinks for children across Europe.”
Giving young people the power to choose how they nourish their bodies encourages autonomy. It allows for belief systems to be respected. And for those suffering from lactose intolerance (approximately 68 percent), access to a digestible alternative will improve their quality of life.
The ProVeg petition addresses all three motives for adding plant milk to school meal menus. “Dear European Commission, please add calcium-fortified plant-based milk to the EU School Scheme to promote inclusivity in our schools, protect the planet, and improve animal welfare,” it writes.
Oatly supports the plant milk petition
Oatly has lent its support to the petition. The oat milk giant launched an advertising campaign throughout mainland Europe highlighting the importance of choice. In typical Oatly style, the campaign is subversive and funny. It shows school kids smuggling contraband plant milk onto the playground and trading with each other.
The message of the campaign, blasted across various digital and social channels, reads: “Should kids have to take it into their own hands? Include plant-based milk in the school milk scheme!”
Oatly conducted a survey to gauge public opinion about the petition, which revealed that 92 percent of EU citizens want to see more plant-based foods and drinks made available to school children. And 76 percent elaborated that such a move can pave the way for a long-term sustainable lifestyle for youngsters.
“The future of our children and our planet depends on the decisions we make today. We’re pleased parents and the public in the EU have an opportunity to influence policy in this area.” Cecilia McAleavey, Oatly’s director of sustainable eating and public affairs told Plant Based News. “We simply cannot afford to have a subsidy cementing animal-based dietary norms that fails to recognize the needs of all children.”
She added: “Plant-based drinks are not subsidized in schools in the UK either, so together with our partners, we will continue to fight for the policies that are needed to transform our food system in the UK and around the world”.