NEW YORK (AP) — Forget mystery meat or cheese pizza. Instead, chickpea wraps and veggie tacos will be on the menu for New York City public school students as the nation’s largest school district moves to “vegan Fridays” in school cafeterias.
The move was pushed by the city’s new mayor, Eric Adams, who follows and promotes a plant-based diet which he credits with improving his health.
“I can’t tell people what to put on their weekend grills. But damn it, we shouldn’t be fueling the health care crisis in our prisons, our hospitals, and most importantly, our schools, so we want to move in a healthier direction,” Adams said in an interview on WNBC-TV. on Friday.
Vegan options are already available at all public schools in the city every day, but starting Friday and on a weekly basis, the lunch offer will be vegan. Students can still request a non-vegan option, according to the city’s Department of Education, and milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hummus and pretzels will still be available to students.
New York public schools, which have about 938,000 students, have offered Meatless Mondays since 2019 and Meatless Fridays since April. Nationwide, 14% of school districts offered vegan meals and 56% offered vegetarian meals in at least one of their schools, according to a 2018 survey by the School Nutrition Association, a trade group representing school nutrition programs and the workers.
It’s unclear if other districts across the country plan to go vegan one day a week like schools in New York City.
New York City schools say their vegan meals have been tested and approved by small groups of students.
The Friday menu included “Vegetarian Vegan Tacos,” with tortilla and salsa, broccoli, and carrot and lemon salad on the side. Other offerings planned for this month include a Mediterranean dish of chickpeas with rice or pasta, and a bowl of rice with black beans and plantain.
Adams, a former NYPD captain, said he traded a junk food lifestyle for a plant-based diet that helped him beat diabetes. He wrote a book about his diet, “Healthy at Last”.
Nearly 40% of New York public school children in kindergarten through 8th grade were overweight or obese, according to data cited by the city in 2019.
Angela Odoms-Young, an associate professor in Cornell University’s division of nutritional sciences who helped develop the National School Lunch Program nutrition standards, said the change in New York schools is “innovative and exciting”.
Odoms-Young said adding plant-based meals can help ensure students get the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, expose them to foods they don’t normally eat, and build habits. healthy throughout life. She also said it could dispel the idea that children are resistant to eating vegetables.
“It’s not enough that it’s broccoli,” Odoms-Young said. “It could be a whole host of things kids might eat, especially if they’re prepared in different ways.”