Jigsaw Curzon House Day Nursery, Chester’s largest private nursery, has unilaterally decided to only provide vegan meals for its 260 children with effect from January. It has two sites: Curzon House and Ash Tree Farm which are now both firmly embracing the vegan trend.
Many parents are outraged, saying that they were not consulted about the nursery’s vegan diet.
The Chester Standard reported that it had spoken to a mother who has a three-year-old daughter at Jigsaw Curzon House on Wrexham Road. She had spoken to eleven or twelve other unhappy mothers about the “drastic” change.
“It’s just bonkers”
“It’s just bonkers,” she said.“Just to enforce it on us without any say isn’t right – they shouldn’t be making these decisions on my behalf. If my daughter wants to be a vegan when she’s older then that’s fine but I’ll have that conversation with her myself.”
The founder of the nurseries, Claire Taylor, is unrepentant. She said the decision had been made with the children and the planet’s future in mind. It was not, however, her intention to impose lifestyle choices on families.
“We appreciate that this is a decision that comes with a business risk associated, however, we feel passionately that a sustainable path is the one we wish to follow for the benefit of our children’s future,” said Mrs Taylor.
The anonymous mother sent the local newspaper a document from the nursery setting out the type of meals that will be included on the new plant-based menu.
There are twenty-five dishes based on different cuisines from around the world. They look delicious and include:
- Hungarian Goulash: Chickpeas, butterbeans, potatoes and peppers in a rich paprika and tomato stew served with green beans, followed by plant-based yoghurt and honey sprinkled with flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and goji berries.
- Aloo Matar Curry: Potato and pea curry in a spiced tomato-based curry sauce, followed by coconut rice pudding and mango puree.
- Shepherdless Pie: Lentils, mushrooms and mixed seasonal vegetable Shepherd’s Pie, followed by bananas and custard served with a mixed seed crumb.
- Teriyaki Vegetables and Sesame Noodles: Mixed vegetables stir-fried in a teriyaki sauce served with egg-free noodles topped with toasted sesame seeds, followed by fruit cocktail served with plant-based jelly and coconut whipping cream.
Breakfast cereal will be served with either soy or oat milk, “chosen as they contain the same fortified nutrients as are found in dairy-based milk”, according to the document.
The mother complained that “There’s obviously no cheese, which my daughter loves, and no meat or the goodness from fish. It’s such a huge, drastic change and I’m not happy about it.”
Some parents have complained that the move amounts to “discrimination” against their meat and fish-eating children, and therefore “outrageous”.
Many parents are supportive
Many parents were supportive on social media. One parent said on Facebook:
‘It’s like saying you don’t want your children to be educated in what will save our planet.
‘Vegan or not, this is an incredibly healthy-sounding menu and I am thrilled our son will be eating this kind of food.
‘If anything, it takes the pressure off having to feed him uber-healthy food at home because I know he’ll have had a wholesome and nutritious meal at nursery.
Others pointed out that humans are not designed to consume meat at every meal, and families are, of course, quite free to feed their children meat, fish and dairy in the evenings.
Nursery has a significant footprint to consider
Mrs Taylor spoke to the Chester Standard about the reasons behind the decision which had been made in close co-operation with a highly-qualified and experienced nutritionist.
Together they had created a “highly nutritious, varied and sustainable menu which meets all of the relevant guidelines for early years nutrition and diet for children under the age of five.”
“The change is far less drastic than it sounds. Our current menu is 40 per cent vegetarian and all the dishes on our new menu are existing dishes which have been adapted to make them plant-based” said the founder.
“This means our children are fully familiar with the tastes, textures and flavours we are going to be feeding them which should ensure the transition is a smooth one.”
She referred to the “overwhelming” evidence published over the past few years highlighting the impact of animal farming on the planet.
Mrs Taylor emphasised that the two nurseries serve up to 1,300 lunches and 2,600 light snacks every week to the 260 children and 70 staff. The organisation, therefore, generates a significant food footprint which they are responsible for.
An informal consultation process had been carried out over several months. The response to the plant-based menu plans had been quite divided.
Mrs Taylor had decided that if the nursery loses business as a result of the decision, then that is a price worth paying “for the sake of the planet and the children’s future”.
“We fully acknowledge and appreciate the response we’ve had from a group of our parents. This is a change which impacts their child and they have every right to voice their concerns and seek reassurances.
“It is important to highlight that we have also had a significant amount of support and positive feedback from others across the two settings who are fully supportive of the imminent changes.”
She is very clear that the Nursery does neither wishes to enforce a lifestyle choice nor to put children’s nutritional needs at risk. The nursery has undoubtedly put a lot more effort into providing healthy nutritious meals to their children and staff than many busy working parents are able to do.
The US Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine has published a report to the effect that a plant-based diet is quite healthy for children.
A kindergarten in Seattle imposed a similar regime on its children earlier this year. In that instance, it was required as a matter of Washington state law to provide milk, but other than that the food was purely plant-based. Initially, this decision caused quite a bit of chaos. Afterwards, the parents came to accept the decision.