FOOD at Oxfordshire County Council’s meeting cost £170 more than when vegan menus were introduced.

The first vegan meals were served at the full meeting in April.

Figures obtained in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, by Countryside Alliance, showed than in February the council lunch cost £581.23, but rose to £749.52 in April.

The spread is laid out for all three 63 county councillors – meaning the total cost per head was around £11.90.

A spokesperson for the council said ‘plant-based food is not more expensive’ and that the cost of food regularly changes.

The FOI also reveals that in September, the full council lunch cost £727, and £712.50 in November – similar figures to those of the first vegan menu.

The council spokesperson said: “The cost of the buffet lunch at the meetings in September and November were very similar to the buffet at the April meeting.

“The September and November meetings were not plant-based food, April was.

“The provision of plant-based food did not therefore prove to be significantly more expensive than comparable non-plant based food buffet lunches.

“Costs will always fluctuate slightly due to factors including the overall cost of food – which as everyone knows has been rising nationally and internationally in recent months.

“The February meeting was an exception. It came with a lower cost because it was a packed lunch which has no labour cost rather than a buffet.

“In addition, there is always more food per head in a buffet than a packed lunch.

“As such, trying to compare the February and April statistics in isolation without looking at previous costs in 2021 leads to wholly false conclusions being drawn.

“Plant-based food is not more expensive than non-plant based food lunches.”

Mo Metcalf-Fisher, a spokesman for Countryside Alliance, said: “This whole debacle, including the ill-advised decision to grandstand by showing off pictures of the lavish lunch spread, looks incredibly out of touch.

“The council should be sourcing sustainable, affordable, wholesome produce – including meat and dairy – from local farmers, who like everybody would benefit from the business at this critical time.”

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

The council’s cabinet also decided at its March meeting, that plant-based options will be on the menu for part of the week at schools.

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Oxford Mail: File photo of Oxfordshire County Hall. Picture: Ed NixFile photo of Oxfordshire County Hall. Picture: Ed Nix

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This story was written by Liam Rice, he joined the team in 2019 as a multimedia reporter.

Liam covers politics, travel and transport. He occasionally covers Oxford United.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Liam.rice@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @OxMailLiamRice