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Helsinki to trial vegan meals at 20 daycare centres

Helsinki city officials are considering plans for a one-year trial in which daycare centres will provide a vegan alternative at mealtimes. The year-long pilot would involve 20 daycare facilities.

Helsinki's City Board on Monday approved the idea of a year-long vegan food trial at 20 of the capital’s daycare centres.

So far, city daycare facilities have provided vegetarian meals, some of which include animal products such as milk and eggs. Strict vegans stick to a diet that is entirely plant-based, which means that they do not consume any animal products at all.

The aim of the pilot is to determine the cost of providing young children with a vegan alternative at mealtimes. Officials have so far calculated the daily cost of vegan meals at 4.40 euros more than the average cost of children’s meals, totalling 11.70 instead of 7.26 per day. This includes breakfast, lunch and a snack.

Nearly €1K more annually

The average cost per child for a year would be 2620 euros compared to the current average of 1630, in other words nearly 1,000 euros more annually.

Under the current system, parents who want their children on a vegan diet have been able to bring their separate meals to daycare for their young ones.

A study of daycare centres carried out in January found 27 vegan families, who now supply their children's food themselves. However daycare service providers estimate that some 125 families would opt for vegan meals for their children if they were readily available.

Final decision pending

Deputy Mayor Laura Räty of the conservative National Coalition Party estimates that doing so would cost taxpayers some 123,000 euros more annually, which she argues is "not possible...in the current economic situation and budget framework".

The pilot was approved with a narrow majority led by the Greens and Left Alliance. The decision must still be approved by the larger City Council.

There are some 21,000 children in Helsinki's daycare centres.

8:36am: Meal costs and decision process corrected and clarified; details of study, number of children and Räty comment added.