How the EU plans to make school meals more inclusive
Lawmakers in the EU have recently called from school canteens to offer more inclusive options. They argue that more needs to be done so that the food being offered to kids in schools takes into account dietary restrictions like food intolerances and allergies.
This is an issue that’s been pretty divisive among stakeholders. However, MEPs recently voted in favour of a new initiative that would “allocate additional funding for the procurement of alternative diversified products, within the scope of the scheme in order to ensure its inclusivity” for children with different types of dietary restrictions.
The EU launched a scheme in 2017 called “Farm to Fork”, which aims to promote healthy diets in school canteens by making sure children are offered meals that contain fruit and vegetables, but it also promotes milk and dairy products, which are fairly common allergies.
MEPs have voted in favor of a revision of the scheme that could include more plant-based alternatives. The report, which was led by MEP Carmen Avram, pointed out that nearly a quarter of kids in the EU don’t have access to the program at the moment, as there aren’t enough alternatives available that are suitable for their dietary needs.
The most frequently given example is milk, which is the only option offered in the scheme as it is. But, a large number of children say they can’t have milk due to allergies or lactose intolerance, and they are not being offered an adequate alternative instead.
Carmen Avram said in an interview that, although offering things like almond drinks could be used as a dairy substitute, this wouldn’t mean switching to a plant-based diet. It would simply be used for children who can’t have dairy products.
She said: “We must increase the budget so that, from the list of products that have already been approved, these children can also have something”, adding that countries would have the final say in whether they want “a diversified list of alternatives for children with medical and dietary restrictions, in line with the scope of the scheme”.