Friday lunch menus at New York public schools will now be vegan.
The school district announced the weekly menu change on social media last week.
In a tweet, the district wrote, “NEW: @NYCschools cafeterias are going vegan on Fridays! Plant-based options in schools mean healthy eating and healthy living, and improving the quality of life for thousands of NYC students.
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The city’s public schools already offer vegan options every day, but now the district’s main meal on Fridays will be vegan, according to the Associated Press.
Although the meal will be vegan, students will be able to request non-vegan options, the AP reported. In addition, students will still have access to milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hummus and pretzels.
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For the district’s first Vegan Friday, students received “Vegetarian Vegan Tacos” with tortilla and salsa, with broccoli and a side salad of carrots and lemon, according to the AP.
Other Friday vegan meals this month will include a Mediterranean dish of chickpeas with rice or pasta, and a bowl of black bean and plantain rice, AP reported. Vegan meals are said to have been tested and approved by small groups of students.
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The New York Public School District, the largest school district in the United States, has offered Meatless Mondays since 2019 and Meatless Fridays since April, according to the AP. The district has approximately 938,000 students.
The AP reported that 14% of school districts across the country 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.
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The movement for Vegan Fridays in New York has been pushed by the city’s new mayor, Eric Adams, who follows a plant-based diet himself.
“I can’t tell people what to put on their grills on the weekends. 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 move in a healthier direction,” Adams said in an interview on WNBC-TV on Friday.
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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’s nutrition standards, told the AP that the change in New York schools is “innovative and exciting”.
She said changing the menu can help students get their recommended full servings of fruits and vegetables per day and expose them to foods they don’t typically eat. The change could also reinforce long-term healthy habits and 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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.