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Winchester City Council pledges vegetarian by default catering at meetings and events

Updated: May 12, 2023

  • On 24/03/23 at the Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency Decision Day, the City Council signed the Winchester Good Food Charter.

  • The City Council also approved its Good Food Charter pledge that all catering at events and meetings it organises will be vegetarian by default basis.

  • This follows a question asked on 8th February’s Carbon Neutrality Open Forum by a campaigner for Plant-Based Councils [1], requesting that the Council pledges that all catering will be plant-based. In response, Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency Councillor Kelsie Learney said: “Plant-Based by default is certainly a direction of travel that we need to take”.

  • Local campaigner Alec Bond expressed disappointment that the Council has not opted for plant-based catering.

  • Councils such as Oxfordshire County, Oxford City, Cambridge City and Exeter City have made commitments to transition to fully plant-based catering.

Winchester City Council has pledged that all catering at meetings and events that are organised by the council will be vegetarian by default. The decision was made by the Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency, Councillor Kelsie Learney, at the Decision Day meeting on 24th March, 2023 [2].

At the meeting, the City Council committed to sign the Good Food Charter [3], launched by Winchester Food Partnership, which states that food systems create 40% of greenhouse gas emissions and that biodiversity in the UK has fallen by 70% since 1970.

As part of the Good Food Charter, the City Council committed to introducing a vegetarian by default approach when catering is provided for meetings and events organised by the council [4].

During the meeting, Councillor Learney said:

“This year there are a number of events where we will be providing catering to the public ... With vegetarian by default, we are taking the same approach as many other organisations, where rather than providing a meat based meal and asking if people want a vegetarian option, we turn that on its head”.

This follows a question asked by Alec Bond, a local campaigner for the Plant-Based Councils campaign [1], at the Carbon Neutrality Open Forum on February 8th. Mr Bond requested that the City Council ensure that all catering at meetings and events is plant-based, as the logical next step after declaring a climate emergency.

During February’s Open Forum, the question from Mr Bond stated:

“The proposal for eating local, seasonal foods is welcomed. However, research tells us over 80% of European agricultural emissions are associated with meat, dairy and egg production, with just 6% being attributed to transportation. Additionally, a 2018 University of Oxford study stated that the biggest change we can all make to reduce our environmental impact is by adopting a plant-based diet.”

Responding to the question, Councillor Learney said:

Plant-based by default is certainly a direction of travel that we need to take”.

On hearing that a decision had been made for catering to be vegetarian and not fully plant-based, Mr Bond said:

“While I am very glad that the council has taken steps away from serving meat and fish at council events, I am disappointed that there was not sufficient support for a pledge for default plant-based catering. We know that dairy products have a significant detrimental impact on the environment, including methane emissions and water pollution, as well as using a disproportionate amount of land. I hope Winchester City Council moves towards plant-based catering in future”.

This comes after encouragement from the Plant-Based Councils campaign, requesting that the council follows other councils around the country in promoting healthy plant-based eating as the logical and necessary next step after having declared a climate emergency.

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.

Motions have been debated by councils across the UK and 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. 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 [6].


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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] 24th March meeting Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency Decision Day meeting agenda:

[4] Decision details on the Good Food Charter:

[5] Exeter City Council votes to ensure that all food and drink provided at catered meetings is 100% plant-based:

[6] Oxfordshire County Council votes to ensure all food provided at council catered events is fully plant-based:

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