Two NYC Schools Become First Public Schools in US to Go Vegetarian


Another elementary school in New York City has decided to go with a vegetarian menu for student lunches, and other schools nationwide are paying attention to the experiment.

The first school to do so was a public elementary school in Flushing, Queens. Now, the Peck Slip School in lower Manhattan will be serving only plant-based foods in order to support their students' health as well as for the environment. Natalia Lima of Ecorazzi says that these two schools are the only non-charter schools in the US to have made this switch to vegetarian. The Coalition for Healthy School Food (CHSF), a non-profit organization focused on getting whole foods into schools across New York City's boroughs, was instrumental in the schools making the change.

"We decided to implement the vegetarian menu because of the health benefits of a diet including more legumes, vegetables, and whole grains and our concerns about the environmental impact of meat production," explained Maggie Siena, school principal. "As it turns out the vegetarian dishes are pretty delicious, too – we are seeing more kids trying and liking chickpeas, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta. Kale salad was a huge hit."

The CHSF group's executive director Amie Hamlin noted that many schools are asking for menus to lower their students' BMIs, promote better health, reduce the number of sick days, and to increase students' concentration. After implementing vegetarian menus in January of 2013, the school was able to report improved test scores and longer attention spans by students within nine months.

Hamlin also says that on a vegetarian diet the kids get more fiber, less cholesterol, less saturated fat, and more of the healthy "fighter nutrients" that plants have to offer.

Lindsey Christ, reporting for TWC News 1, writes that Principal Bob Groff of PS244 says the Office of School Foods and his school are finding out what the kids like because it is a trial and error procedure. The average attendance for the city is 90%, but at the Active Learning Elementary School has an attendance average of 96%, which has gone up to 97% after the school switched to a vegetarian menu. The cost of the meals has stayed the same and the kids seem happy with the change.

Siena says that the more the school learns about how livestock production negatively impacts the planet and that lowering our consumption of meat products seems to be in our best interest. If meat is left off the plate, the size of our carbon footprint is cut in half, says OneGreenPlanet. The site's writers continue by saying that the planet is not able to sustain a population of heavy meat eaters.

Irene Plagianos, writing for DNA Info, says that the Peck Slip's PTA co-president Kerry McAleer sees that parents are"proud and excited" about having a meatless cafeteria.

"The parents of Peck Slip had a chance to taste the Kung Pao Tofu and Lentil Chili at a recent PTA meeting and the food was delicious and healthy," she said. "It's a wonderful opportunity to teach our children healthy eating habits."

The DOE Office of School Support Services' CEO Eric Goldstein vows that his office will continue to work with the Coalition for Healthy School Food and public schools to ensure that NYC students get "the nutritious foundation they need to learn."

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