All New York City public schools– the largest public school system in the world — will offer Meatless Mondays in the 2019-2020 school year in a bid to improve student health.
The program — announced by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Chard A. Carranza, and vegan Brooklyn Borough President and 2021 mayoral candidate Eric Adams — will see vegetarian breakfast and lunch options served every Monday. It follows a successful trial led by Adams in 15 Brooklyn schools in Spring 2018, followed by a test-run at the city’s more than 1,700 public schools last fall.
The pilot received positive feedback from students, who were served meatless lunches such as grilled cheese, meat-free tacos, and a salad bar.
“Cutting back on meat a little will improve New Yorkers’ health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We’re expanding Meatless Mondays to all public schools to keep our lunch and planet green for generations to come.”
Throughout his term as Brooklyn Borough President, Adams has championed the health benefits of a plant-based diet. The NYC politician went vegan after learning he was losing his eyesight and suffering from nerve damage as a result of type-2 diabetes.
Last August, Adams helped launch the Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program at Bellevue Hospital, one of the oldest public hospitals in the nation, to help combat chronic health conditions like heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. Last January, all 11 NYC public hospitals adopted a Meatless Mondays program.
Vegan School Lunches
NYC isn’t alone in serving students healthier lunches. Last month, California introduced a bill that would see plant-based meals and milk served daily to the state’s six million public school students.
Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys), who introduced the bill, explained that the landmark bill would increase low-income access to healthy food while helping California reduce its carbon footprint.
The Oakland, LA, San Francisco, Novato, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Riverside, and Capistrano school districts have already found success in serving vegan school lunches. According to Oakland, the district saved $40,000 in two years thanks to the program.
In the UK, entrepreneur Dale Vince also aims to bring allergen-friendly plant-based lunches to schools through his Gloucestershire-based food factory.
The NYC Department of Education (DOE) will meet with students ahead of the official launch to gather more feedback before finalizing the menu. The change is completely cost-neutral, according to the DOE.