European citizens, plant-based organisations, and businesses are joining forces to urge the EU Commission to add calcium-fortified plant-based milks to the EU’s School Scheme. In order to highlight the issue, ProVeg has started a petition to promote more inclusion in schools.
The EU has just opened up a public consultation for their School Scheme, which supports the distribution of fruit, vegetables, milk, and milk products to schoolchildren, from nursery school up to secondary school. It also includes educational activities to increase the consumption of the promoted products, with the aim of encouraging healthy eating habits. However, the School Scheme doesn’t take into account school children who do not want to drink cow’s milk. By adding calcium-fortified plant-based milk to the scheme, the EU will promote inclusivity in our schools, protect the planet, and improve animal welfare.
Three reasons to include plant-based milks
If you compare different plant-based milks to cow’s milk, cow’s milk clearly has the biggest environmental impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and land and water use. In fact, a litre of cow’s milk requires more than 22 times more water and roughly 12 times more land, than a litre of soya milk while emitting three times more greenhouse gas emissions. We’re facing a climate crisis – and yet, the EU is still promoting the consumption of environmentally damaging dairy products rather than following through with their commitment to encouraging healthy and sustainable eating. At the same time, students are increasingly ditching dairy in order to protect our planet.
Another concern for Europeans, and young people in particular, is animal welfare. Having access to plant-based alternatives allows students to drink milk that does not negatively affect the welfare of animals. Dairy cows live in cramped stalls and must endure uncomfortable and stressful conditions that do not meet even their most basic needs. Plant-based milks offer a healthy and cruelty-free alternative to cow’s milk and their popularity has skyrocketed over the past years. All of which means that it’s time to make plant-based milks available to students in schools.
Health concerns are one of the main reasons why people choose plant milks. Cow’s milk allergy is the most common form of food allergy in children – it can cause mild as well as life-threatening conditions. Globally, about 68% of people are lactose intolerant. While lactose-free cow’s milk is available in schools, it’s still important to give students the choice between lactose-free cow’s milk and plant-based milk at lunchtime. It is also important to note that most Asian, African, and Indigenous people are lactose intolerant. So, adding plant-based milk to the school scheme contributes greatly to choice in our schools and with it, inclusivity.
What you can do
If Europe is serious about offering students a healthy and sustainable diet, it should offer calcium-fortified plant-based milk drinks in the EU School Scheme. The EU’s consultation around the School Scheme will end on 28 July 2022. Sign our petition for plant-milk inclusion now and share it with your friends and family.