AWP Councillor Jane Smith Asks Cheshire East Cabinet to Provide Plant-Based Options in Schools

AWP Councillor Jane Smith Asks Cheshire East Cabinet to Provide Plant-Based Options in Schools

This week AWP Councillor Jane Smith addressed Cheshire East Borough Council’s Cabinet asking them to provide daily plant-based options in school canteens across the borough, with a view to progressing towards a wholly plant-based menu one day a week.

Smith was given one minute to address the cabinet at it’s monthly meeting in Sandbach, Cheshire. 

AWP has long called for healthy plant-based options to be made available in all schools at every meal believing this to be key to lowering rates of childhood obesity and improving overall health, reducing costs to the NHS and the environmental impact of school meal production.

Smith’s address to cabinet follows similar measures to introduce plant-based options being implemented in schools in the US and Brazil.

Cabinet listened to Smith’s address and responded that the introduction of such a measure was not necessary.

Smith recorded a video response after leaving the Cheshire East Cabinet Meeting on Tuesday.

Below Smith outlines the motivation behind her address and her thoughts on the response given by Cheshire East cabinet.

We also outline ways those who feel strongly on these issues can take action.

Jane comments:

I decided to take a multi-angled approach rather than one which just focussed on farmed animal welfare and the many benefits of veganism.

Our children’s health would benefit hugely from a move such as this, since processed meat is now classed as carcinogenic by the World Health Organisation [source: IARC Working Group, October 2015].

School catering costs would be reduced, since plant-based foods are generally much cheaper (and more inexpensive to transport) than animal products.

Lowering childhood obesity through reducing saturated fats would also ease the strain on our local medical infrastructure, both in the short and long term.

Factory farming is of course an appalling blight on our society and the world’s most widespread cause of misery for animals, but it also has direct access to the school catering market. It has been identified by the UN as a key cause of climate change and water pollution, so we’d also be helping address current environmental crises by switching to plant-based school meals where we can.

Schools in the US and Brazil amongst others have already started to make this move. And that should come as no surprise, because it makes such total sense to offer plant-based school meals. No new technology is needed! No new supply chains are required! Costs would be reduced! Children would be learning lifelong healthier eating behaviours! Oh, and numerous intensively farmed animals are of course saved a living hell.

The official response to my question, from Cabinet member and Children and Families portfolio holder Cllr Jos Saunders, was depressingly predictable.

The five major points of the response were:

  1. Cheshire East has one of the lowest child obesity rates in the North West.”

Fact check: this is true. In 2016 to 2017, it was found that 7.3% of four-to-five-year-olds in the borough were obese and 15.4% of ten-to-eleven-year-olds.

At the time this was announced, Cheshire East actually put out a press release gloating that we have one the lowest rates in the North West region. We should note here, though, that the North West region includes some of the most badly deprived areas of the UK.

Secondly, the figures show that over 15% of ten-to-eleven-year-olds in Cheshire East are clinically obese – and that’s just not good enough.

  1. At least 75% of school meals in the borough are from unprocessed ingredients.”

Fact check: Questionable truth!. I know two of our local school menus intimately, one a primary and the other a high school, because my three children eat there and there’s absolutely no way anything like 75% of meals are from unprocessed ingredients.

Cheshire East may be operating a bit of smoke and mirrors approach as to what “unprocessed” actually means – I suppose pretty much any food we eat comes from ingredients that at one stage were unprocessed!

Even if it were true (which it isn’t), it would still mean that a quarter of food given to our children in schools consists of processed animal foods (of which most will be processed meat, and therefore carcinogenic according to the World Health Organization).

Which begs the question: since when was it OK to feed schoolchildren carcinogenic lunches a quarter of the time?

  1. We already offer a vegetarian option at every school meal.”

Fact check: True – but I wasn’t asking for vegetarian options, I was asking for plant-based options. The current vegetarian options in the borough’s schools almost all include processed cheese (usually pizza, or a cheese wrap, or a vegetarian lasagne containing processed dairy products).

  1. We try to work with parents to make sure that any vegan children are catered for.”

Fact check: This means that the only hope Cheshire East children have of getting anywhere near a plant-based school meal is if their (vegan) parents specifically request it. This hardly helps any of the other children broaden their healthy eating behaviours or develop lifelong habits around plant-based nutrition. Choices need to be available, and they need to be enticing enough for children to choose them.

  1. We’ve already been making big inroads into all of this.”

Fact check: Where, exactly?

Offering plant-based options in schools, and ideally at least one 100% plant-based menu each week, is an obvious win-win in terms of human health, economics, animal welfare and the environment. So why can’t we do this?

Those who feel strongly on these issues have various options to take action.

Residents of Cheshire East are encouraged to politely contact Cabinet member and Children and Families Portfolio Holder Cllr Jos Saunders via the PA to the Cabinet, Cath Law, e-mail

Residents of Cheshire East are also encouraged to send AWP photos or scans of Cheshire East school dinner menus to help us determine whether they really do consist of unprocessed meals 75% of the time, as Cheshire East cabinet claim.

Residents of other boroughs and countries are encouraged contact their own council or responsible departments and ask them to add plant-based meal options to all school menus. You can let AWP know what responses you receive here.

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"The Animal Welfare Party puts animal protection high on the political agenda. We offer policies than benefit people, animals and the environment. If you think it's time animals had dedicated representatives in the EU Parliament, please support us today". Vanessa Hudson, Leader, Animal Welfare Party

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