Quibble is fully backing the petition to “Provide dairy-free alternatives as part of the national milk scheme for under 5s”.
What is the petition about?
The current scheme to provide milk for children in nurseries excludes those who either have allergies, intolerances or ethics in which they choose not to consume milk from animals. This petition aims to change this by encouraging the government to include dairy-free alternatives in the scheme to ensure all children are provided for.
Why is Quibble backing the petition?
At Quibble, we have team members who are vegan, along with their children, including one child who is allergic to dairy. Further to this, we work with the Benedict Blythe Foundation, which is campaigning to educate schools on allergies. As they explain, “1 in 40 school children suffer from at least one serious allergy, and 20% of serious allergic reactions to food happen while a child is at school.”
The story behind the petition
As the team at Quibble has children who are in the milk scheme age bracket, we had a conversation that resulted in one of the team contacting a company that supplies milk as part of the scheme.
Thank you for your email and for expressing your interest in alternatives to cow’s milk.
Right now, cows’ milk is the only option available for funding and there are a variety of reasons for this…
Currently, all children under the age of 5 who are attending a childcare establishment for 2 hours or more each day, are entitled to a free 189ml portion of milk funded by the UK government.
Under this scheme, there is currently no provision for the funding of dairy milk alternatives. Details of this can be found on the FAQs page of the NMRU’s website.
They said to reach out to another company who is more involved in the scheme, who responded with the following:
Based on the current rules of the scheme, we are unable to reimburse for the cost of dairy-free alternatives. The Nursery Milk Scheme does not include fully-skimmed milk, goat’s milk, soya milk, lactose-free milk, fluoridated milk or unpasteurised milk, milk with added flavours, colours, vitamins or other additives.
The rules are based on legislation so we are not able to change them for you.
And so, the only way to fight for change is to encourage the government to review the legislation. It was the husband of one of our team who set the petition up. It soon gained traction too and continues to.
Since the petition was set up, we’ve heard from a number of people who’re in support of it, including Lucy Upton, a specialist paediatric dietitian and nutritionist who works with children with food allergies!
She told us, “It’s great to see this topic getting some much-needed coverage. The allergy community is so passionate and active about advocating for the needs of its community, and I think it is an important conversation
As a dietitian who works with 100s of children every year who have food allergies, I would be very much in support of an initiative to see suitable unsweetened and fortified milk alternatives in schools. We are seeing growing numbers of children with food allergies, and milk allergy remains one of the most common food allergies in childhood…
She goes on to say, “The inclusion of suitable fortified milk alternatives in both groups is absolutely key to ensuring children get the right amount of energy and nutrients (e.g. calcium, iodine) that they need for growth and development. The provision of milk alternatives in education settings, where children spend so much of their day and receive meals and snacks, would not only help ensure intake of the key nutrients but also reduce the burden on parents who spend a considerable amount of time planning meals, snacks and drinks to ensure these groups of children get the nutrition they need. It would also be hugely advantageous for parents who may be struggling with the financial costs associated with children who follow a milk-free diet. A litre of plant-based milk alternatives is around 3-4 times more expensive than cow’s milk.”
”My final thoughts are also around the important psychosocial factors for children with more restricted diets e.g. food allergies. Children with food allergies can often find themselves repeatedly reminded about what they cannot have. It would be refreshing to see suitable alternatives, in this case, milk, available in all settings including education settings so no child has to go without.”
Kate Lancaster, who runs the instagram page The Dairy Free Mum has been lending her support to the campaign from the very start by sharing with her 64,000 followers. She says;
“A recent poll I ran showed that 92% of Allergy Parents feel that their child has been excluded from something because of their food allergies. A school setting should be somewhere that promotes inclusivity, but this scheme can make children with allergies feel ostracised from a young age.”
“As a parent to two children who have suffered with Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy, and my eldest just starting school, as soon as I saw the petition Sylwia had set up I knew I had to get behind it.”
We also spoke with Dr Shireen Kassam, founder of Plant Based Health Professionals and co-founder of VegMed, who explained, “It is essential that all schools offer dairy-free alternatives to cow’s milk for a variety of important reasons. Contrary to popular belief, cow’s dairy is not an essential ‘food’ for children or any other life stage. In fact, more than 70% of the world’s population are in fact lactose intolerant after weaning, and therefore the compulsory nature of milk for these children, who would typically be from non-White backgrounds, will result in distressing abdominal symptoms.”
”Allergy to the protein in cow’s dairy is also a significant problem. Hospital admissions for food-induced anaphylaxis continue to risk with cow’s milk responsible for 26% of deaths in school-age children. More and more families and their children are choosing to avoid animal-sourced foods, for reasons related to ethics and the environment. The production of dairy from cows is hugely damaging to the environment contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and water, land and air pollution, not to mention the appalling lives of most cows raised for their milk. Dairy-free alternatives perform better against all indicators when considering their environmental impacts and contribute to more compassionate living.”
”Although cow’s dairy provides certain nutrients for children, including protein, calcium and iodine, dairy-free alternatives such as soya and pea drinks, especially fortified varieties, contain equivalent amounts of nutrients. There is no recognised detriment to a child’s health when avoiding dairy products.”
“In order to be truly inclusive and evidence-based and care about the planet and the animals we share it with, dairy-free alternatives must be offered in schools.”
Support this cause and sign the petition here >