The largest public school district in the United States, the New York City school district, launched a new “Vegan Fridays” lunch program last Friday, Feb. 4, raising concerns among parents who watched what children ate that day.
Last week, the district announced the menu change on social media, tweeting: “NEW: @NYCschools 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.”
The move was pushed by the city’s new mayor, Eric Adams, who follows and promotes a plant-based diet.
“I can’t tell people what to put on their grills on the weekend. But darn it, we should not be feeding the health care crisis in our prisons, our hospitals, and most importantly, in our schools, so we want to go in a more healthy direction,” Adams said in an interview on WNBC-TV on Friday.
Although, the Associated Press indicated, Friday’s menu in New York City schools included “vegan veggie tacos,” tortilla, broccoli, and a carrot and lemon salad on the side, following the first “vegan Friday,” several testimonials denied that was the food they received.
Concerned reactions from some parents were not long in coming on social networks, and much concern was generated about what the students would be served from now on.
One mother posted on Twitter a photo of the lunch her daughter had received, assuring that the ingredients “are not vegan,” and indicating that in addition to a burrito, there was “a bag of Tostitos” (snacks) and a banana.
Even the Democratic senator for New York’s 33rd district, Jessica Ramos, also wrote on Twitter a critique of what she saw in an image that she indicated showed the plate of food that another child had received in one of the city’s schools.
“@NYCMayor, I am as much a believer in the power of healthy food as you, but this ain’t it. This was served to a public school student #Seenin13 for Vegan Fridays. The only real meal some of our city’s kids can count on is what they get @ school. “This wasn’t thought through,” the senator wrote in a social media post.
Angela Odoms-Young, a professor of nutritional sciences who helped set the nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program, told AP the New York City vegan Friday initiative is “innovative and exciting.”
We’ll have to monitor how it continues to work. But, for now, the city said the menu for upcoming Fridays in February would include Mediterranean chickpeas served with rice or pasta and a rice bowl with black beans and plantain.