New York may be the concrete city where dreams are made of, as Alicia Keys so beautifully – and ungrammatically – sang, but it is fast becoming the city where young vegans are made.
That’s because state schools across the Big Apple are now enjoying Vegan Fridays, when meat burgers, sausages and bacon are off the canteen menu, replaced by delicious green meals designed to get young tastebuds zinging.
Having joined Meatless Monday, MFM’s sister organisation in the US, in 2019 and rolled out a Meatless Friday last April, the city has now decided to ditch animal products entirely at the end of the learning week and go fully plant-based. Cow’s milk is still required to be served by law, though drinking it is optional.
The permanent change to school menus was introduced by Eric Adams, the city’s mayor and an ardent supporter of Meat Free Monday, who took office at the start of the year. It is intended to give the 930,000 school children who attend state school access to nutritious and delicious food, as well as to educate them about the effect our diets are having on the health of people and planet.
“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,” said Adams. “All students have access to healthy foods that prevent debilitating health. I’m excited to see that I can do it.
“In one voice, we talk about fighting childhood obesity, diabetes. Yet you go into a school building every day and you see the food that feeds our health care crisis. I am going to do the best I can to give them the options of a healthier diet.” One in five American children are now obese, and two out of five adults, but it is a crisis that can be tackled with a vegan diet.
Adams, a former NYPD officer and New York State senator, was told he had type 2 diabetes after a routine check-up in 2016, with a blood-sugar level three times what was healthy. However, he lost weight and says he managed to reverse the diagnosis by becoming vegan. “At the heart of all of it was my diet,” he said in 2018. “My plant-based diet is the No 1 reason that my diabetes was put into remission.”
Announcing news of the dietary and education revolution, the @NYCschools Twitter account posted: “Cafeterias are going vegan on Fridays! Plant-based options in schools means healthy eating and healthy living, and improving the quality of life for thousands of NYC students.”
And in case you think these are the school meals of your childhood nightmares, it’s good to know that pupils were involved at the tasting stage and gave the grub the thumbs-up. Menus include Mediterranean chickpeas with rice or pasta, black beans and plantain rice bowls, and veggie tacos with salsa.
As Adams told MFM in 2020: “It’s a great initiative and an opportunity for us to really reduce meat consumption that not only saves our lives but saves our planet. Let’s continue to move towards a Meat Free Monday!”