History was made last week in New York. For the first time, all public schools will be required to serve only vegan food in their cafeterias once a week. The move follows the successful implementation of Meatless Mondays and Fridays throughout the district. Vegan Fridays will be a permanent change to school menus designed to expose the 930,000 public school children to healthy meals.
The plant-based protocol was brought in by Mayor Eric Adams, fresh after being sworn in last month. A vegan himself, the official has pledged to work with the Department for Education (DOE) to make schools healthier. Menus will be available to view on the DOE website a month in advance. Adams credits his own veganism with reversing his diabetes diagnosis.
Building on a good foundation
Vegan meals have already been available to New York students. Milk is still required by law to be served with all meals. Children can choose to not drink it, but the USDA has made its availability compulsory. The same applies to Vegan Fridays.
“DOE is committed to the health and well-being of all children, and it is imperative to have a consistent nutrition and full diet every day to enable students to succeed both in and out of the classroom,” Associated Press secretary-general, Jenna Lyle, said in a statement. “We are pleased that New York students will be able to expand their healthy and nutritious dietary options by gradually introducing a vegan-focused menu on Friday following the success of Meatless Monday and Friday.” Lyle added that “Menu items other than vegan are available upon request.”
NY schools’ Meatless Mondays were initiated in 2019. They provided a good infrastructure base for adding Vegan Fridays into the mix and removing all animal products. “Plant-based options at school mean a healthy diet and a healthy life, and improve the quality of life for thousands of students in New York City,” Adams said in a statement. “All students have access to healthy foods that prevent debilitating health. I’m excited to see that I can do it. “
Teaching the younger generations
As parents become less wary about plant-based nutrition and increasingly health orientated, eating meat-free at home is becoming more widespread. However, when implementing change in schools, there can be backlash.
When the Mayor of Lyon, France, decided to take meat off the menu of all the schools under his purview, both the French government and public described the move as an outrage. It was cited as an insult to French farmers and butchers and parents joined the outcry as well. The public anger did not sway Mayor Doucet, who stuck to his initiative, which he cited as being entirely driven by health concerns.
France has a contentious relationship with meat alternatives. Last year it was reported that the government made its feelings known about cultivated meat, with declarations that it was not natural and would never be served in schools.
The U.K. appears to be fairing a little better. It has just seen the first launch of the first Plant Based School Kitchen partnership. It came about after the headteacher of the school in question decided to switch up the menu to reflect planetary health, as well as solid nutrition for all students.
Lead Photo by the Eric Adams Campaign.