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Leicester City Council urged to act on climate emergency by promoting plant-based food


  • On 28/9/23 at the Full Council of Leicester City Council, a local resident and supporter of the Plant-Based Councils Campaign [1] asked the council to take action on food policy and to meet with them to discuss how plant-based food should be promoted to help tackle the climate emergency.

  • Rachel Benn, asked “Given the climate emergency and Leicester City Council’s stated aim to become net zero carbon by 2030, will the council commit to serving fully plant-based fare at all future catered events as some councils have done?”

  • This question follows councils elsewhere passing motions committing to plant-based catering, such as Oxfordshire, Cambridge City and Exeter City.

  • Questions were also asked at other Midlands councils in September, including Birmingham, Worcester and Derby [2].


Leicester resident, Rachel Benn, attended a full council meeting for Leicester City Council on Thursday 28/9/23 [3], to ask the council to lead by example and ensure any catering provided at internal council events is plant-based. She was requesting that Leicester City Council follow the lead of other councils around the country by promoting healthy plant-based eating as the logical and necessary next step after having declared a climate emergency.


Rachel Benn spoke for two minutes at the council meeting, saying [4]:
“Leicester City Council declared a Climate Emergency in February 2019. Such actions need to embrace every aspect of council activity, including food provision. Other councils, for example Oxfordshire, Cambridge City and Lewisham Borough, have committed to serve only plant-based food at their events, and I’d like Leicester to do the same.
A move to plant-based catering helps normalise a dietary choice which, according to an Oxford University study, is the single most effective thing an individual can do to reduce their environmental impact. We are currently in a cost-of-living crisis and meat and dairy products are almost always the most expensive part of a meal – whole food plant-based meals are considerably cheaper, and highly nutritious. By doing the right thing for the planet, and promoting eating for good health, the council can also save money.
The multiple crises we are currently facing make it even more important to feed grain directly to humans, not to farmed animals. I would like to see our council be part of the solution, not continue to spend money on meat and dairy, which we know to be part of the problem. Given the climate emergency and Leicester City Council’s stated aim to become net zero carbon by 2030, will the council commit to serving fully plant-based fare at all future catered events as some councils have done?
This will be a positive and forward-thinking step, bringing our food policy into line with other climate-aware policies.”

Councillor Adam Clarke, Deputy City Mayor and Executive Member of the Economic Development, Transport and Climate Emergency Committee, responded to the question at the meeting, an extract included:
“ Thank you Rachel for your question, for the spirit in which it was asked, and for the work that you do to promote climate action - I am incredibly grateful for that.
We are currently developing our new Climate Emergency Action Plan, and will be looking to address the need to reduce the climate impact of food and other goods purchased and consumed in the city within that plan. That draft plan will be published shortly and the public will be invited to comment on its aims and objectives and I’d expect and invite Rachel to make comments there.”

The Plant-Based Councils campaign believes that local authorities have an opportunity and a duty to lead the way in normalising plant-based eating, which is necessary if we are to tackle the climate emergency. Councils can reduce their own emissions by procuring more plant-based foods, and can address both the health and cost-of-living crises by encouraging residents to adopt healthier and cheaper ways of eating.


Similar questions have been asked of other councils across the UK and motions have been carried by progressive councils such as Exeter City Council [5] which, in December last year, voted to serve only plant-based foods at council meetings and events. Exeter City Council also plans to introduce more plant-based options onto menus at council-run external sites such as leisure centres, and to showcase plant-based foods at external events.


Just last month, 650 academics [6] called on British universities to adopt 100% plant-based catering to fight the climate emergency. Four academics from the University of Leicester were amongst the signatories of the Open Letter to university Vice Chancellors.


ENDS.


Word count: 748

For more information or further comments, please contact plantbasedcouncils@gmail.com


NOTES TO EDITORS:


[1] The Plant-Based Councils campaign aims to address the climate emergency starting with the food on our plates. Working with councils across the UK to encourage them to lead the way in the switch from emission heavy foods to plant-based ones that are better for health, our planet and reducing the impact from the cost of living crisis. https://twitter.com/PBCouncils


[2] Birmingham

Worcester

Derby


[3] Leicester Full Council meeting 28th September 2023 (Item 7 Question 4 on page 5 of the Council Script)


[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIlQ4ImRBHo Recording of question and response


[5] Exeter City Council votes to serve 100% plant-based food at catered meetings https://news.exeter.gov.uk/council-pledges-to-raise-awareness-of-the-benefits-of-plant-based-food/


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