NHS food vouchers criticised for 'lack of vegan options'

14/03/2019 - 06:00
The Vegan Society has urged the NHS to include vegan-friendly milks and vitamins to its Healthy Start voucher scheme.

The scheme is a means-tested initiative and offers pregnant women and parents of children under the age of four vouchers to help them buy foods including milk, vitamins, fruit and vegetables.

The vouchers, which can be used at local retailers, can currently be spent on plain cow’s milk which is whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed and infant formula milk which is made from cow’s milk.

Vegan substitutes such as almond or soya milk cannot be purchased.

As a result, the Vegan Society has written a letter to the NHS urging it to include plant-based milk and a vegan-friendly vitamin D supplements in the initiative.

The letter said: "The convictions of vegans come within the protection of the law and, on the face of it, it appears that the Healthy Start voucher scheme could be inadvertently discriminatory."

"It is important for everyone to eat calcium-rich foods daily and fortified plant-based milk plays an important role in vegan nutrition.”

Heather Russell, dietitian at The Vegan Society, told The Independent: “In fact, the UK’s Eatwell Guide recognises that fortified plant milk represents a valuable alternative to cow’s milk. Calcium content is comparable and the soya variety is similar to cow’s milk in terms of protein quantity and quality.”

The vegan charity also warned that the Healthy Start supplements contain vitamin D from animal fat ‘which means that the only vegan-friendly nutritional benefit of this scheme is free fruit and vegetables

It said the vitamin D supplement currently on offer ‘unfairly disadvantages vegans and the restriction on the purchase of milk is unjustified”.’

Under the Healthy Start scheme, parents who qualify for the initiative are eligible to receive one voucher worth £3.10 per week. Meanwhile, those with children aged under one year old can receive two £3.10 vouchers (£6.20) per week.

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