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No More Meat? New York Mayor Decrees Vegan Fridays for Schools – Lesson

A student eats a vegan meal served for lunch (with milk as a drink) in New York, 2022. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Mayor Eric Adams is making it his mission to get kids eating more plants.

“Where’s the beef?” might become a weekly question in public school cafeterias across New York City. The city has a new mayor, and he says it’s time to get kids in the Big Apple eating, well, apples – and other plant-based foods. In a stated effort to improve the health of school students, Mayor Eric Adams has limited Friday lunch choices to vegan-only options. He is calling it Vegan Fridays.

A vegan diet does not allow any food from an animal source, such as meat, eggs, cheese, milk, or fish. The Friday meal will be entirely vegan, but the kids will have access to milk and some other animal-based options if they ask for it.

Is a Vegan Diet Healthy?

Vegan diets have become more popular over the last few years – but is this way of eating healthy? A plant-based diet tends to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol. It can help with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. Mayor Adams credits his vegan diet with reversing his type 2 diabetes symptoms.

On the other hand, several nutrients are harder to come by if you exclude animal products. For example, protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin B12 are not as easy to get when eating only plants.

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Eric Adams (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Often, vegan diets included lots of fruits and vegetables – but as it becomes more common, brands are releasing vegan versions of unhealthy, processed foods. Eating dairy-free ice cream is probably no healthier than normal ice cream, for example.

What Do Students and Parents Think?

Black bean rice bowls, veggie tacos, plantains, and chickpeas are replacing the Friday lunches of macaroni and cheese, mystery meatloaf, and mozzarella sticks.

Mayor Adams pointed out that kids in New York don’t seem to enjoy eating the food they are given at school, anyway – whether it contains meat or not. So, is it time to try something new? As with any change, there will be some who agree and others who have concerns.

Naomi Peña, a parent of schoolchildren on the Lower East Side, said, “I’m all for offering our kids different options. One thing that the mayor said is 100% right is that the kids don’t like the options that exist now. So why not experiment?”

Others are open to the change but seek a vegetarian diet over strictly vegan. Foods like cheese, eggs, and milk are staples in many households, and parents want those options available to their children. Fourteen-year-old student Candace Jackson said, “They should at least provide [the dairy option], and then they can provide something non-dairy.”

GettyImages-1368642744 vegan school lunch

(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Pictures of the student meals shared online slightly swayed some opinions. A handful of parents took to social media to vent their frustrations about what the school was feeding their children. One angry parent commented on Twitter, “Most of the kids dumped [the food] in the garbage or just ate the cookies … it was completely unappetizing. Why would you remove options for students?”

Though New Yorkers have largely accepted the menu change, schools in Lyon, France, did not fare so well. Mayor Gregory Doucet imposed a similar program in his city, but many French citizens were outraged because they saw the elimination of meat from the menu as an insult to local butchers and farmers. Doucet, however, stood his ground.

With mixed reactions to the menu change in New York, what do you think? Should school lunches be strictly vegan, mostly meat, or should both options be available? What would you choose to eat for lunch?