The Scottish government has agreed to offer non-dairy milk alternatives as part of its free government-funded nursery and early learning milk scheme.
The decision comes after several years of campaigning by The Vegan Society over the lack of inclusion of plant-based milks in various public health initiatives. Established in 2019, the society’s Play Fair with Plant Milk campaign demands that fortified non-dairy milk should be recognised as an alternative wherever animal milk is currently promoted.
The UK’s current Nursery Milk Scheme means children under the age of five who attend approved day care facilities are entitled to receive 1/3 of a pint of cow’s milk each day, free of charge. However, the government scheme does not currently include fortified plant milks for vegan pupils.
Following discussion between The Vegan Society and the Scottish government, funding will now be available for eligible childcare providers to provide unsweetened calcium enriched soya drinks for children over 12 months.
The dairy-free alternative will be made available to children under the new Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme, which will roll out across all local authorities on 1 August 2021 and will replace the current UK Nursery Milk Scheme in Scotland.
In a published assessment, the Scottish government said: “During the development of the policy, a negative impact was identified for those children who are unable to consume cow’s milk due to medical, ethical or religious reasons.
“These children will be unable to benefit from the cow’s milk element of the scheme but we have sought advice from Food Standard Scotland to identify safe and nutritious alternative drinks to cow’s milk which can be included in the scheme.”
Goat and sheep milk alternatives will also be made available as part of the new scheme, as well as a healthy snack item such as a portion of fresh fruit or vegetable.
Heather Russell, dietitian at The Vegan Society, added: “This scheme recognises the nutritional need for suitable alternatives to milk, which will help to ensure that vegan children receive the best care, including balanced food.”
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© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020
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