A mother has won her fight to get free vegan lunches served at her daughter’s school by citing the Equality Act 2010 to staff.
When her daughter Lois started school at Hazlehurst Primary in Greater Manchester in September, Laura Laura Chepner launched a campaign to get cruelty-free food on the school menu after learning that despite the fact all children in year 1 and 2 in England and Wales are entitled to free school meals under the universal free school meal system, Lois was being left out of eating a hot dinner with her friends because the school didn’t provide a vegan lunch option.
“I told the council it had spoiled my daughter’s first day at school and how excluded we felt for being compassionate. I’m a teacher myself and I started my training at the same as the Every Child Matters programme was launched. WH Smith to start closing stores as it struggles on the high street.
I remember going into teaching thinking every child matters, yet fast-forward to this year and I was being told my child didn’t matter.”
Equality Act 2010
Passionate vegan Laura was told that because her daughter’s dietary requirements were a ‘lifestyle choice’, and not the result of religion or allergy, Lois would not be entitled to a free school meal.
However, rather than sending her child to school with a vegan packed lunch leaving her feeling alienated from the other children in her class, Laura sought the help of her local councillor and discovered that veganism is actually a belief is supported by the Equality Act 2010.
Laura approached the school’s headteacher, chef and Bury Council to make them aware that they are required to provide a suitable meal for vegan children, and thankfully they responded positively and promptly set to work creating a vegan-friendly menu for Lois with Laura’s help.
After a vegan option was added to the school lunch menu, Lois is now able to join the hot dinner queue with her friend’s classmates at lunchtime and experience school as they do. After working with Laura to create a range of delicious vegan dishes, Lois can now choose from a selection of meals such as samosas, a hummus wrap, pizza with vegan cheese and ‘fish-less’ fingers.
“Fortunately Bury Council are quite forward-thinking and were open to the idea of ‘veganising’ the menu. ‘The headteacher was supportive from the start. I worked with them to show how we bring vegan food into their menu.
‘Lois is thrilled because she can now sit with her peers eating her vegan lunch. ‘It’s not just a personal victory for us but for vegans in general. Hopefully it will have a ripple effect across other schools in the borough.”
Bury Council Responds
A spokesman for Bury Council said:
‘All of our schools offer a meat-based dish and a non-meat alternative each day. Schools also, at the request of parents, offer meals to pupils which meet special dietary or cultural requirements.
Veganism is becoming more popular, and as such we have been running a trial project for the last nine months with two primary schools, offering a vegan choice to pupils whose parents request it.
We are also now providing vegan meals to particular children at Hazelhurst and our Lady of Lourdes. ‘So far the choice has been limited as these meals have had to be bought in. However, all of our schools will shortly have their own kitchens where meals are produced from scratch on the premises.
In Bury we say “every child matters” and we will continue to offer a wide range of tasty and nutritious meals that children and their parents are pleased with.”