Plant-based meals could be on mealtime menus at New York hospitals

(Updated December 13, 2019) | All New York hospitals must guarantee vegan options at mealtimes, thanks to a new law.

Bill S1471A/A4072 was “passed overwhelmingly” in the Senate and the Assembly, last June. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law on December 6.

All of these options must be “nutritionally equivalent” to non-vegan options and be referred to on written materials and on menus.

“By making plant-based meals the law in hospitals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has put New York on the forefront of a growing movement to ensure that hospitals provide patients healthy, plant-based meals to fight heart disease, diabetes, and obesity,” said Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., Director of Nutrition Education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM.)

According to the committee, nearly 1.7 million New Yorkers suffer from diabetes. Additionally, heart disease accounts for 40 percent of deaths in the state. “Research shows that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans, can help fight heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer,” the organization notes.

It’s cheaper, too. According to St. Joseph Health System — which is based in California, where a similar bill passed — the veggie meals cost 50 percent less to produce than the meat options. “The hospital projects saving $5,000 a year by serving more meat-free meals,” said PCRM.

New York’s hospitals may soon be required to serve vegan options at every meal

New York’s Hospitals Embrace Meatless Mondays

This isn’t the first time New York’s hospitals have been pushed to reduce the amount of meat served. Last August, Bellevue Hospital, the oldest public hospital in the nation, launched the Plant-Based Lifestyle Program, which works with patients to incorporate more vegan food into their diets as a means of preventative medicine.

Earlier this year, the city’s Health + Hospitals division introduced Meatless Mondays for NYC’s 11 public hospitals.

Dr. Mitchell Katz, the president and CEO of Health + Hospitals, said in a statement, “we want to empower our patients to live their healthiest lives by introducing them to healthier foods that they may choose once they’re discharged.

The shift towards vegan food is being championed by a number of influential figures in New York, including vegan Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who reduced severe symptoms of his type-2 diabetes through a whole food, plant-based diet.

Adams said “our shared goal is to create a healthier Big Apple, one where our government institutions support healthful dietary choices. Hospitals have a unique opportunity to influence patients and families in rethinking the nutritional quality of their meals.”