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Norwich to increase plant-based catering options but motion falls short of councillor's expectations

  • On 14/03/23 at the Full Council meeting of Norwich City Council, councillors unanimously supported a motion asking the Council to ensure that food and drink provided at all meetings and events hosted by the city council include plant-based food, and that plant-based options will be promoted and showcased at civic events.

  • Due to an amendment, this falls short of the original motion from Councillor Catt which asked for all catering provided internally to be plant-based.

  • Local supporters of the Plant-Based Councils campaign say that making a commitment to plant-based food is the logical and necessary next step for councils after declaring a climate emergency.

  • Councils such as Oxfordshire, Cambridge City and Exeter City have committed to transitioning to fully plant-based catering.

Councillors at Norwich City Council have voted unanimously in support of a motion asking the Council to serve more plant-based food at hosted meetings and events which are catered, and to promote and showcase plant-based options at civic events.

Alex Catt, Green Party councillor for Sewell ward, proposed the motion at a full council meeting for Norwich City Council on Tuesday 14/03/23 [2]. The motion asks the council to lead by example and serve fully plant-based food and drink at any future catering for internal council events. However, an amendment was tabled which reduced the motion to simply including plant-based food at these events.

Lucia Alexander, 39, a health care worker and Norwich resident who supported the motion said:

"While glad to see the amended motion pass with a unanimous vote, I am very disappointed that councillors have chosen not to support the original motion which showed bold leadership on the climate emergency, and have instead gone for something that should be a given. This was a great opportunity for Norwich councillors to set an example.

I attended a full council meeting in November asking for this small change to be considered. It’s not the outcome I’d hoped for, but nonetheless, I am happy to hear the environmental impact of the food we eat being debated at my local council - it is a topic that all councils should be discussing.”

This comes after encouragement from the Plant-Based Councils campaign, requesting that the council follows other councils around the country in ensuring that all food provided for internal councillor events will be entirely plant-based, as the logical and necessary next step after having declared a climate emergency.

In his speech to present the motion, Councillor Catt said: [3]

"Over-consumption of meat costs the NHS about 1.2 billion (pounds) annually and is responsible for 45,000 deaths per year. This motion is proposing some very small changes that the council can make to do our bit in ensuring that we have a sustainable food production system which is able to meet our needs in the long term.

“Only half of our food crop calories feed people directly and only a fraction of the 36% of food crop calories that go to feed livestock actually make their way into the meat and milk that we consume. It's a huge waste of food, it makes our food production much more carbon intensive and inefficient at actually feeding people while driving even greater food insecurity across the world."

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 motions have been debated by other councils across the UK and motions have been carried by progressive councils such as Exeter City Council [4] 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. 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].

The Norwich City Council motion also called on the council to write to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs supporting UK endorsement of the Plant-Based Treaty.


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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.

[2] Meeting documents Original motion (item 13g); Amended motion

[3] Recording of Full Council meeting 14/03/23

[4] Exeter City Council votes to serve 100% plant-based food at catered meetings

[5] Oxfordshire County Council votes to serve fully plant-based food at all council catered events

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