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Local asks Hackney Council for a Second Time to Ensure Food at Council Events is Plant-Based

  • On 28/11/23 at the Full Council meeting of Hackney Borough, a local resident and campaigner with Plant-Based Councils [1] asked the council to ensure that all food and drink provided at council meetings and events is entirely plant-based, as a key solution to address the climate effects of food consumption in the borough.

  • In October 2022, local resident Louisa Hillwood first spoke at a Hackney full council meeting, saying that the borough has the opportunity to lead the way on climate action related to food by ensuring food provided at council events is plant-based.

  • In response, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, Councillor Mete Coban, said that the council will work towards it, and that he would meet with Louisa to discuss it further.

  • This follows Exeter City Council’s vote last year to ensure that food provided at meetings is 100% plant-based and to promote the benefits of plant-based food, following councils in Oxfordshire, Cambridge and Norwich City. [2]

Hackney resident, Louisa Hillwood, asked a public question at Hackney Borough full Council meeting on 29th November 2023 [3] requesting that the council ensure all food provided at internal meetings and events is plant-based. As a borough that prides itself on its climate action, switching to plant-based catering is the logical next step in reducing the council’s consumption based emissions.

Louisa Hillwood, who spoke on behalf of residents concerned about the impact of our food choices on the climate and ecological emergency, asked the question. She said:

“In October 2022 I asked whether Hackney Council would switch to fully plant-based catering at internal meetings and events to address food related emissions. Could the Cabinet Member Councillor Coban provide an update on this? If Councillors still have concerns would they meet with me to discuss it further?”

In his official response as Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, Councillor Mete Coban said:

“While Hackney Council has a commitment to try to move towards a plant-based treaty, I think what's really important to recognize is the diversity of our borough… we've got to take these communities on a journey on how we tackle the climate emergency and it's about how do we work with them to make sure that we can help support them in that transition and that's what our climate action plan is about.” [3]

Turning to the leader of the council, Councillor Coban said:

“In the May AGM where you were brought in as the new speaker we actually had 50% plant-based catering but also we had fish and meat, and what we saw was that carbon emissions from that day alone was 50% less than in previous years.

“Our sustainability and climate team has been leading on a London wide campaign called ‘Eat Like a Londoner’ and this is a collaboration that we have I believe with 27 other boroughs. The initiative is supported by a crowd funded budget of £400,000 and it's designed to reduce food waste and promote more plant-based food.

“While we are supportive towards the shift towards a more plant-based diet, going back to earlier where I said we have to recognize the diversity in our borough and shift towards it.”

Councillor Coban concluded by saying Hackney will work towards plant-based catering, and that he would be happy to meet with Ms Hillwood to discuss the issue further.

After the meeting, Ms Hillwood said:

“In 2021 a report by ReLondon showed that in London 27% of food emissions come from meat while providing only 5% of the volume of food consumed by Londoners. It says that if Londoners reduce their meat intake by 70%, it would cut London’s consumption-based emissions by 20%.

Hackney Council can be inspiring and forward-thinking climate leaders by ensuring their own internal catering is plant-based. Not only will this reduce the council's own emissions, it will also reduce deforestation, fresh water usage and biodiversity loss as a result of council catering.” [4]

Similar questions have been asked of other councils across the UK and motions have been carried by progressive councils such as Exeter City Council [2] 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 on to menus at council-run external sites such as leisure centres, and to showcase plant-based foods at external events.

Councillors on Oxford City Council last month unanimously supported a motion which will ensure that all food provided in internal catering is plant-based. The council will also work with local farmers to support their move to create more plant-based produce, and establish a plant-based free food service, to help tackle the cost of living crisis.

This follows the successful motion that was passed at Oxfordshire County Council in 2021 to serve fully plant based food and drink at all catered meetings and events [5].

Plant-Based Councils, an Animal Rising campaign, is a national initiative of local residents who are pushing for their councils to adopt 100% plant-based catering [1]. The group claims that local authorities have a responsibility to follow the current scientific consensus, which acknowledges the environmental, health and cost benefits of plant-based meals over those containing meat and dairy. The campaign is active in over 45 councils, with the group encouraging interested residents to sign up to run a local campaign.


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[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.

Public question:

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