The majority of European Parliamentarians who participated in the vote did not include plant-based milk in their initiative reports on the EU School Scheme, so the drinks will not be available in schools.
ProVeg International has called the decision a “missed opportunity” because it excludes kids who can’t or don’t want to consume cow’s milk. The organization pointed out that some milk substitutes, like soy and pea, are just as nutrient-dense as dairy but have a much smaller negative impact on the environment.
According to ProVeg, the School Scheme is not reaching all of the children in Europe with environmentally friendly products. Additionally, incorporating plant milk would be consistent with the Food Systems Framework initiative, which aims to improve the sustainability of European diets. The outcome of the vote, however, is not conclusive.
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“We are very disappointed by the outcome of this vote, but we are hopeful that the European Commission will still move ahead and include plant-based drinks in the scheme as part of their review, which is out at the end of the year,” said Lucia Hortelano, EU Policy Manager at ProVeg International.
The report, which was released in March by the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament, also failed to advocate for change, instead recommending that dairy products be promoted more. Despite the fact that 72% of respondents to a public survey favored funding milk substitutes in schools and that a petition on the subject garnered tens of thousands of signatures last year, this was the case.
“In light of the climate emergency and societal demands for more ethical and sustainable foods, it is shocking that an ambitious reform of our diets is still considered a taboo in the House representing European citizens,” said Olga Kikou, head of Compassion in World Farming EU.
“Many children do not drink cow’s milk for medical, ethical, taste, cultural or environmental reasons. A year before the EU elections, deputies keep letting their constituents down. All that to continue the overconsumption of animal products for as long as possible. We urge the European Commission to take into consideration the needs of our times when drafting the proposal,” she adds.