THE county The council has been warned that its new plant-based food policy could backfire on the school children the scheme is aimed at.
As well as voting in favor of the officers’ recommendations to ensure that the food provided at full council meetings and all civic events is entirely plant-based, the Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet has agreed to ensure that vegan options will be on the menu for part of the week in schools.
The council currently provides school meals to around 14 per cent of schools in Oxfordshire – all primary.
A council report says it is providing food to 57 of the county’s primary schools or nurseries.
Currently, 40% of the menu choices in these 57 schools do not contain meat.
The plan is for this to increase to 62% overall after the Easter holidays, with the most notable change being the introduction of a “plant day, once a week, for all our main meals”.
Donna Ford, County Councilor for the Bicester North Division, said at the meeting: “For me, that has always been the main thrust of this motion.
“For us, as members or adults, we have the choice to go out at lunchtime and buy our own food.
“This is not an option for some of our youngest and most vulnerable residents, school children are eating what is presented to them or are simply hungry.
“This recommendation aims to impose a plant-based diet on schoolchildren for 39 meals a year.
“Most of the targeted children are getting free school meals, so this proposal will cost the majority of parents if they seek to opt out.
“At a time when incomes are stretched, do we really want to put extra pressure on parents?
“People don’t like being told what to do. More often than not, the result is that they rebel and do the complete opposite.
“This is often the case with children and why the reward system is so much better than dictation.”
Liz Leffman, leader of the council, said: “I know from my own experience that children are often very influential on their parents.
“Very often they are the ones who push their parents not to use plastic bags or to think about eating plant-based foods at home. This is exactly what we want people to do.
“It’s not about dictating. We’re not going to corner people and force them to eat vegan food, I can promise you that.
“If people want to go out and buy food outside of the council, they are welcome. The important thing here is to say that we are leading by example.
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