Monday 16 April 2018

Would You Send Your Child To A Plant-Based Nursery?

Important clarification: a plant-based nursery is a nursery offering plant-based meals. It is not a nursery carved out of potato, with decorative celery columns, brussel sprout carpets and a radish roof. If you want to send your child to a nursery like that, you will have to set one up yourself. Unfortunately, it does not yet exist.

According to news reports, one mum was apparently angered when her son’s nursery switched to an all-vegan menu last week. The mum, Aimee, posted on an online forum to complain about the change. She wrote, “This has really got my back up as I feel we are being railroaded into making our children vegan without a choice, no option of meat or fish!”

Now, firstly, it’s worth noting that one plant-based meal a day doesn’t make you a vegan. Quick, somebody tell Beyonce (actually don’t because I love her and I am willing to exempt her from the whole plant-based vs vegan debate if it means we have something in common). If you eat a packet of crisps that happen to be free from meat and dairy, you’re not suddenly a vegan. Don’t worry. You still have the whole rest of the day to get your fill of flesh. One meal, or even one day a week, does not a vegan make. That's a wise selling us wise vegans have been saying for years.

You should never read the comments on these sorts of stories, I know, but I did. Opinion was split, some people didn’t see what the big deal was. Others were outraged, they wanted her to take this complaint all the way to Ofsted.

It’s one meal a day, surely? Does that matter? You can take a Peperami and cheese strings with you when you pick your kid up from the nursery. Hell, you can stand outside the gates, udder in hand, ready to squirt the milk from the teat of your newly acquired cow straight into the mouths of the kids toddling out of the gates. Does it matter if your child goes eight hours without eating meat or dairy? Apparently, to some parents, it does.

Now, clearly I’m biased on this. I am a decade into being vegan and I have two vegan kids (well, one, the other hoovers up biscuit crumbs at playgroup so I’m not sure she’s fully committed to the lifestyle yet, but she’s only 18 months old so there’s still time to convert her). I know kids can thrive on a vegan diet because I have two happy girls (well, one, the biscuit sneaker can get a bit grouchy at 3 am) who are growing and learning and doing all of the things kids are supposed to do.

I’m assuming the kids at the nursery are given a balanced diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, so I'm struggling to see what the issue is. If it turns out the kids are just fed buckets of the diary-free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream with not a vegetable in sight, then hell, I’d be outraged, too. But the idea of a room full of toddlers sitting down to eat fresh vegetables really isn’t that offensive to me.

A plant-based diet is inclusive to people from different cultures. Rising numbers of children are being diagnosed with dairy allergies, and skipping the dairy may also be reassuring to the parents of those youngsters. There have been a few incidences reported in the media lately of children being wrongly fed food they were allergic to, something which can be life-threatening for children with severe allergies.

As well as being inclusive, a plant-based diet is healthy. There are plenty of healthy, energetic vegan kids thriving on a plant-based diet. According to a recent survey, seven percent of the UK is now enjoying a vegan lifestyle. I’m not sure I can quite believe that the number is that high, but certainly, veganism is a lot more common, and accepted, than it was ten years ago.

Not accepted enough that we’re ok with our kids eating the occasional vegan meal though, apparently.

What do you think? Would you pull your child out of nursery if they switched to a plant-based meal plan?

Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash

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