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Vegan School Meals in Scotland

Scottish Vegan School Meals Survey - 2017

Over the past 6 weeks we have been running a survey, entitled ‘Scottish Vegan (Healthy) School Meals – Survey 2017′, the survey was viewed by just over 4200 people and generated a lot of interest. We have shared some of the feedback we received here, and it makes interesting reading.

Why did we run this survey ? We regularly get contacted by parents expressing there concern over how difficult it is to get access to healthy school meals for their children. Many parents have said that they want access to vegan school meals for their children – this is either on the grounds of health or on moral grounds because they believe that alternatives cause un-necessary suffering to animals or are indirectly damaging to the environment.

What do we hope to gain by sharing the results of this survey? We want to promote the positive benefits of a healthy plant based vegan diet. We want to make it easier for teachers, parents and children to gain access to healthy vegan school meals on the grounds of moral beliefs and personal health.

We would like to thank everyone who responded to our questions and many of you did – from all over Scotland.

Based on the feedback we have received, it seems that experiences throughout the country are broadly similar. In many cases, it is not easy for children to determine what ingredients are being used in the food that is provided to them. In some cases, pupils are being told that requesting a special diet on religious grounds is the only way that dietary choices can be accommodated! In some cases pupils are being offered processed meats which are according to The World Health Organisation – a direct cause of cancer in human beings. We believe that personal health, the impact on the environment and also our own moral beliefs should be sufficient grounds to follow a specific diet. Why are some groups of people being accommodated and others are not?

We have contacted the Scottish Government to ascertain what rights parents and children have in respect to adequate provision of vegan school meals on the grounds of health and personal moral beliefs. At the time of writing this article, we are awaiting feedback. If you work in this area and can help, please get in touch by emailing us at: We want to make it easier for parents and children to get access to healthy vegan school meals if desired.

So, what are our Scottish parents and teachers saying about vegan school meal options?

“There is not a vegan option available every day and if there is, it’s just a baked potato and beans!”

“My son, who has just started school, is not vegan but has decided he wants to be vegetarian. Although there appear to be veggie options available, they don’t look particularly healthy some days and rely heavily on cheese and/ or quorn. They certainly don’t ever appear to be vegan. Also it’s not clear from the menus whether the soups, cheese, jelly etc are actually vegetarian. Most days he has a cheese sandwich on white bread, beans on toast or pizza. He no longer seems to eat fruit and yoghurt at lunchtime, but eats jelly instead. I’m not very happy with what he’s eating at school. He ate much better at nursery when I made his packed lunches. It may be partly down to the choices he’s making and/or peer pressure, but I am pretty unhappy with what’s on offer as I feel that we have established good eating habits which are now being eroded due to the school meals.”

“I work in a primary school. There are some vegetarian options but no vegan other than jacket potato and beans. A member of kitchen staff once told me that fish was a vegetarian option. I don’t know if that was one persons opinion or if the authority considers fish to be vegetarian.”

“Dry baked potato with beans and cucumber, with a tiny portion of watery vegetable soup and an apple is all they offer. Day in, day out. And no pudding.”

“There are very few vegan options offered. Even vegetarian options are either pizza (unhealthy) or soy-filled sausages or burgers! Dessert options are dairy (and sugar) filled frozen yoghurt. Why not offer fruit as only dessert option??”

“I work in a high school and I’m often shocked at what I see the pupils eating – burgers, fries, cakes, sugary drinks, milky AND sugary drinks. There’s often the option of baked potato and beans but who wants to eat that every day. Dessert option is fruit. The diabetes and obesity epidemic will get nowhere on this processed junk diet. I run a weekly lunch group for pupils interested in a vegan diet (although the headmaster won’t let me call it that – it has to be known as a healthy diet club!). The pupils who attend enjoy it – we have samples and talk about animals, health and the planet – and I have a waiting list of 21.”

“Teacher at a primary school, even vegetarian options are very poor and not very healthy, mostly mock meats and not based on whole foods.”

“Was told my child would have to have a food intolerance or religious reasons for specific meals to be provided . Some days my child can get a tomato pasta or fry baked potato or a dry bread roll or salad but this isn’t available every day . Mostly she takes her own lunch and snacks.”

“I have to give my children packed lunch as there are no vegan choices.”

“Approaching staff is difficult as the literature on schools meals says that allergies will be taken into account, but my daughters milk allergy is not after several approaches to catering staff. She was even sitting with a strawberry milk carton in primary 1. She is P5 and its pack lunches since primary 1 when there was no choice of food for her. even when she would say to the people serving her food that she couldn’t have macaroni cheese, they would put it on her plate.”

“There are no vegan options available at either of my childrens schools. I make them packed lunches but the time I forgot and left their lunchboxes in the fridge the youngest was given a dry baked potato at primary school. The eldest was only able to have lettuce and slices of tomato on dry bread at the secondary school. Even the vegetarian options aren’t as widely available as the menu claims. The children tell me vegetarians usually have only one choice (if any) available as opposed to the several choices listed on the menu. Quorn seems popular but a vegan alternative would be better as it would cater to both vegans and vegetarians. School staff haven’t even understood what veganism is and have tried to encourage the children to eat non vegan items, believing vegetarian food to be the same as vegan. The lack (Or really absence) of vegan options angers me as I find it discriminatory, especially in a time where healthy school meals are being promoted in the media and animal flesh meals are being served up under this false image of being nutritional, however, as my kids are the only vegans I’m aware of at their schools, I haven’t kicked up a fuss. At least by giving them a packed lunch I know they are eating well but as a working single parent, the option of a vegan school dinner could be a blessing on days where making lunches in advance is a struggle due to limited time.”

“I am a teacher in Edinburgh and I am aware that there are vegetarian options for children, but these very usually include milk or eggs. Baked potato is a choice, but your child would be having the same every single day. Packed lunches don’t have a vegan option and they are the only meal offered on a Friday. There’s very few vegan desserts. Options are said to be healthy but include pizza, chips and processed foods almost every day. There are salads and veggies on offer, but really bland, and they aren’t put on children’s plates unless they want them. There are no options for allergy or intolerance sufferers like coeliacs or dairy free people. I wish the situation was better!”

“I actually work in a secondary school kitchen, although we cater for vegetarians and gluten free, I feel that there should be more vegan options as my daughter became vegan when she went to university and has educated me more. I also know how hard it is for schools to source the products at low cost as we have restricted budgets.”

“My son’s are vegetarian working towards vegan, being the only vegetarians in the school they are not catered for at all, they usually end up having to have a CHEESE OR TUNA sandwich!! At Xmas or Burns supper, no veggie option. We are made to feel like an inconvenience!!”

“I am a vegan teacher in a secondary school. I have spoken to a lot of our vegetarian and vegan kids and they say there is never anything for them. Id agree. Its plain pasta with tomato sauce or nothing! I have spoken to the dinner lady and she says she is happy to make things but needs to know in advance… well in advance. This has become problematic and now the kids just go down the town and eat chips….”

“The primary school my child goes to boasts a healthy, varied option, but in reality, the staff serve cheap and unbalanced options e.g. chips or potato products. By no fault of the staff, I feel the funding is so constricted that lunch teams have little option but to serve food that is unexciting, and have little access / training into creating dishes that include many different vegetables / flavours. As a result, I provide a packed lunch to ensure that my child has both a varied and fun meal that is both palatable and provides enough energy to see them through the day.”

“In Scottish schools there is an entitlement to have special dietary requirements fulfilled. That includes dietary requirements of choice either for medical, religious or personal reasons. While there may not be a vegan choice normally available, it must be provided if the school is notified. It is very easy to make school meals vegan. The cheapest catering margarine contains no animal products. (Likewise the cheapest supermarket own brand biscuits have no animal products and are very similar to the overpriced free from range). Vegetables are always available. Protein from bean products are readily available. Desserts are the trickiest i.e. cake but fruit is always available and soya yogurt is easily provided. There is no problem in having a vegan school lunch if required.
Speaking as a retired headteacher of a school with vegan children.”

“My daughter was only able to eat the vegetable soup every day, then found out they had started making it with chicken stock so now there are no options for her to eat. Even the chips they fry burgers etc in. Shocking in this day and age they can’t accommodate anybody that isn’t a carnivore.”

“As a teacher who works in several different secondary schools, I am constantly disappointed by the lack of vegan options on the school dinner menus. It’s usually limited to lentil soup (made with veggie stock), and a baked bean potato and salad. In one of my schools I had to report the dinner ladies as they were rude and obstructive when I asked if certain dishes were vegan. This attitude needs to change.”

“It’s easier than ever to have vegan options. There’s no excuse to not have these available. Children should be educated on the effects of meat and dairy on the environment, health and the cruelty it involves.
There are schools in New York that are doing just this. Schools here can follow their lead.”

“I work in a school and apart from soup there are no vegan options. The soup sometimes has lentils for protein but most days doesn’t so I avoid eating at the school. We have a child who is allergic to dairy and the choices available to him are shocking. Vegetables are added to the children’s plates only if they ask. Ham is regularly served which is a disgrace given the links to cancer.”

“I have been trying for 10 years to get Vegan school meals for my children in Edinburgh. One of my children had baked potato and beans every day at school for a whole year as that was the only option they could guarantee was vegan but my daughter just got sick of it. I have given up now and just give them packed lunches but it’s a shame they miss out on the social expect of school lunches. I emailed the schools and city of Edinburgh council a number if times over the years. The school said they couldn’t tell me what was in things so couldn’t confirm if anything was vegan. The city if Edinburgh council told me they had had a meeting with faith leaders and they were satisfied that a vegetarian meal catered for all belief based diets.”