Victory for vegans as plant-based milk alternative is rolled out in nurseries

After several years of effective campaigning by The Vegan Society, with its Play Fair with Plant Milk campaign, the Scottish Government has agreed to include plant-based milk alternatives on a government-funded nursery and early learning milk scheme.

Play Fair with Plant Milk was set up in 2019, after the society recognised the inequality surrounding the favouring of animal milk, and the lack of choice or inclusion of plant milks, in various public health initiatives.

The UK’s current Nursery Milk Scheme reimburses eligible childcare providers the cost of providing milk to children under 5 years of age. Since the scheme was first established in the 1940s, children under 5 years of age, who attend approved day care facilities, have been entitled to receive 1/3 of a pint of cow’s milk each day, free of charge.

However, the scheme does not include fortified plant milks and therefore indirectly discriminates against vegan pupils, who do not benefit from the vitamins and minerals available in fortified plant-milk.

After discussions between The Vegan Society and The Scottish Government, and now with approval from Food Standards Scotland, funding will be available for day care providers and childminders to provide unsweetened calcium enriched soya drinks, for children over 12 months who cannot consume cow’s milk due to medical, ethical or religious reasons.

It’ll be made available under the new Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme, rolling out across all local authorities on 1 August 2021.

Sabrina AhmedCampaigns and Policy Officer at The Vegan Society said: “We are 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.”

“We’re delighted to see that the Scottish Government has now recognised 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.”

Heather Russell, Dietitian at The Vegan Society adds: “This scheme recognises the nutritional need for suitable alternatives to milk, which will help to ensure that vegan children receive the best care, including balanced food.”

Veganism is booming and with that the demand for plant-based food has skyrocketed accordingly with research showing that 1 in 3 people regularly buy plant-based milks, including soya, oat, coconut and almond.

The Vegan Society want to see fortified plant milk recognised as an alternative, wherever animal milk is currently supported or promoted.

Parents requesting a suitable vegan alternative for their children can refer to their rights under the Equality Act 2010 and the statutory duty schools are under to remove disadvantages suffered by pupils with protected characteristics. For information and support contact our know your rights service on 07482 363922 or email knowyourrights@vegansociety.com.

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Lynda Hamilton Parker is a Scottish PR expert and independent publisher

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