NYC Public Schools Celebrate “Vegan Fridays,” Still Required to Serve Dairy Milk

From now on, cafeterias at all public schools in New York City will serve vegan food on Fridays. “Plant-based options in schools mean healthy eating and healthy living, and improving the quality of life for thousands of NYC students,” the school district said in a tweet

While New York City school district cafeterias already offer plant-based options daily and don’t serve animal-based meat on Mondays and Fridays, the new initiative means that the main meals on Fridays will be fully vegan. According to reports, last week for the first “vegan Friday,” students were served veggie tacos with salsa, broccoli, and a carrot-lemon salad. Later this month, students will enjoy a Mediterranean chickpea dish with rice or pasta and a rice bowl with black beans and plantains. Students who aren’t interested in the lunches offered will always have access to PB&J.

Increasing vegan food in schools is a big step in the right direction. But unfortunately, all public schools must serve dairy milk per federal USDA guidelines. Cartons of cow’s milk take center stage in the New York City Department of Education’s own photos of the new lunch offerings. Non-vegan food options will also be available to students upon request. 

New York City mayor Eric Adams implemented “vegan Fridays” in schools as a way to improve student health in the largest U.S. school district. “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.

According to a 2019 study, poor diet, marked by low intake of whole grains and fruit, kills more people globally than tobacco or high blood pressure. And poor eating patterns affect children as well as adults. According to the CDC, childhood obesity is a serious health problem in the United States, and it affects one in five children.

Serving more plant-based food in schools doesn’t just benefit human health. It’s vital for the environment too. Animal agriculture is a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions. Even the United Nations has advocated plant-based eating for the past decade, stating that a global shift away from animal products is necessary to combat world hunger and the worst effects of climate change. 

And of course, plant-based eating helps animals. Despite marketing from the meat, egg, and dairy industries that shows images of “happy” animals in pastures, the vast majority of animals raised for food are kept in horrible conditions, confined in crowded sheds or tiny cages. They’re forced to endure painful mutilations, including being burned with hot irons and having their horns cut off, their teeth ground down, their testicles cut or ripped out, and their beaks seared off—all without pain killers. At the end of their miserable lives, they face terrifying deaths at the slaughterhouse.

Vegan food in schools means fewer animals harmed, healthier options for students, and less damage to the environment. It’s a win-win-win! Now, if we could only swap out the cow’s milk for nutritious soy, almond, or rice milk. 

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