A Scottish council is to offer a vegan snack menu for young pupils after a mother’s request to have alternative foods provided for her daughter was turned down due to “cross-contamination” fears.
Alexis Kasravi admitted she was “shocked” after West Dunbartonshire council told nursery staff to stop using local authority funds to buy food for daughter Mia, after the catering department initially refused to create a vegan alternative for her to eat during the morning.
Food safety chiefs also told Ms Kasravi, 37, that she would not be able to provide her own food for the five-year-old over concerns the outside produce may risk “cross-contaminating” other snacks.
And the council is now set to consider rolling out a vegan menu for pupils at all levels of local authority-run schooling.
It comes after two other Scottish councils – East Renfrewshire and Glasgow City – introduced similar plans following pressure from human rights campaigners.
Ms Kasravi told The Scotsman: “The nursery were happy to go out and buy food to ensure that Mia was not going hungry, but the catering department said that could not happen because of cross-contamination.”
“At that point, I had offered to provide food for her myself, but they rejected that as well and as a parent you start to get concerned that she is not going to be eating or getting a healthy amount of calories each day.”
“The nursery were excellent throughout all of this, as were the education department and we were contacted by the dietician at the council, who helped design a menu around our needs that would allow Mia to receive the same nutrition as other children in her class.”
At present most of Scotland’s schools do not offer any clearly labelled vegan options for pupils on standard menus.
In Glasgow, a couple challenged their failure to provide a full vegan menu for their daughter in nursery.
The council then produced a three-week vegan menu and confirmed that this is now available on request throughout the Glasgow area, in schools and nurseries.
East Renfrewshire Council performed a U-turn on their decision after activist group Go Vegan World helped a couple with their challenge.
The group said they were helping a parent with a child in a school in the Borders who is challenging the council’s refusal to provide vegan options. The group says in that case the council has said it cannot provide vegan meals, claiming it is not possible to provide food that complies with the nutritional requirements for school meals.
Vegan menus are now available to pupils on request across both East Renfrewshire and Glasgow City council areas and Ms Kasravi added that she was hopeful that West Dunbartonshire would follow suit.
She said: “If I had not pushed, I don’t think they would have acted, so this feels like a victory against discrimination.
“We are protected under the same rights as religious belief, so I am glad we have been able to resolve it.”