THE county council has been warned its new policy on plant-based food could backfire with the schoolchildren the scheme is aimed at.

As well as voting in favour of officers’ recommendations to ensure that food provided at full council meetings and all civic events is entirely plant-based, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet agreed to ensure vegan options will be on the menu for part of the week at schools.

The council currently provides school meals to about 14 per cent of Oxfordshire schools – all of them primaries.

APPROVED: County council will now serve vegan food at meetings and school lunches

A council report said it provides food for 57 of the county’s primary schools or nurseries.

Currently, 40 per cent of menu choices in those 57 schools do not contain any meat.

The plan is for that to increase to 62 per cent overall after the Easter break with the most notable change being the introduction of ‘a dedicated plant-based day, once a week, for all of our main meals’.

Donna Ford, county councillor for the Bicester North division, said at the meeting: “For me this has always been the main element of this motion.

“For us as members or grown adults we have the choice to walk out at lunch time and buy our own food.

“This is not an option for some of our youngest and most vulnerable residents, schoolchildren either eat what is put in front of them or simply go hungry. 

“This recommendation seeks to impose a plant-based diet on schoolchildren for 39 meals a year.

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“Most of the children this targets receive free school meals, therefore this proposal will cost the majority of parents if they sought to opt out.

“At a time when incomes are stretched, do we really want to put additional pressures on parents?

“People do not appreciate being told what to do. Most often the result is that they rebel and do completely the opposite.

“That is often the case with children and why the reward system is much better than dictating.”

Liz Leffman, leader of the council, said: “I know from my own experience that children are often very influential on their parents.

“Quite often they are the ones who are pushing their parents not to use plastic bags or to think about eating plant-based food at home. That is exactly what we want people to do.

“This is not about dictating. We are not going to pin people down and force them to eat vegan food, I can promise you that.

“If people want to go out and buy themselves food outside the council they are very welcome to do that. The important thing here is to say that we are leading by example.”

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