Meatless Mondays Are Coming to NYC Schools This Fall

CC BY 2.0. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture – A little girl chooses vegetables in cafeteria.

One day per week, all cafeteria food will be plant-based.

In very happy news, New York City's mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that all public schools throughout the city will be adopting Meatless Mondays, starting in the 2019/20 school year. For one day each week, all cafeteria food (which includes breakfast and lunch) will be vegetarian, as part of an effort to curb New Yorkers' greenhouse gas emissions and to improve public health.

This decision is based on a successful pilot project that launched in 15 Brooklyn-area schools in spring 2018. Grist wrote that "it proved to be both cost-effective and popular with students" – not surprising considering that plant-based diets tend to be more common among younger people and that the "younger generation is pretty riled up about climate change" and understands the link between GHG emissions and large-scale meat production.

There is widespread support for the announcement. Staten Island Borough President James Oddo said in a statement,

"For those who scoff at this notion, I have some simple advice: look at the science. Look at the data. Look at the childhood obesity. Look at pre-diabetes diagnoses. Look at the fact that 65% of American kids age 12-14 shows signs of early cholesterol disease. Then perhaps you will embrace the fact that we can't keep doing things the same way, including welcoming the idea of Meatless Mondays."

State senator Alessandra Biaggi, who is vegetarian herself, said, "Learning to eat healthy food is one of the most important lessons our children can gain as part of their education; and access to healthy food is an essential part of our preventative care."

The Department of Education says the adoption of Meatless Mondays will be cost-neutral and promises to confer with students prior to setting the menu for next fall.

This is a profound move that will help to normalize plant-based eating in the eyes of 1.1 million children, many of whom may not experience it at home. And if one-fifth of school meals can be meatless, who's to say that that number couldn't creep higher? Well done, New York.

Interested in doing something similar at your own school? Check out this great resource from the Meatless Monday website.