My daughter is a vegetarian, and she eats school lunches, as they are largely organic. Her public school does a pretty good job of offering vegetarian alternatives on meaty days. She dreams of a school where the entire menu is vegetarian. She could move to New York City…
P.S. 244 in Queens, New York has adopted a 100% vegetarian school lunch menu. As a result, student obesity rates are dropping.
Eco Watch explains:
A public school in Flushing, NY that was the first in the nation to offer a 100 percent vegetarian lunch menu reported recently that students have improved attendance, test scores and energy in the wake of the change.
Students are still allowed to brown-bag, but the overwhelming majority—about 90 percent—of students are choosing the veggie-based cafeteria food, which includes organic roasted tofu, braised black beans and falafel.
After one semester, the number of students at the school who were classified as overweight and obese dropped 2 percent, Principal Bob Groff said. He believes that number is down even more this year.
The school, which has more than 400 students in grades pre-K through 3, changed its lunch menu in January. The school went vegetarian because the plant-based choices were superior to the meat-based ones offered by the city, Groff said.
“I’ve never been presented with an option that’s ‘organic lean chicken,’” Groff told the New York Daily News.
I noticed in photographs of the school’s lunch program, children are serving themselves. I think this is very empowering, especially since they are only given healthy options to choose from on the lunch counter.
New York Daily News continues:
Vegetarian diets have been proven to decrease the risk of heart disease, some forms of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, said registered dietitian Martha McKittrick.
“It’s great that they’re starting kids young and teaching them healthy habits,” she said. “Unhealthy eating habits for kids usually turns into unhealthy eating habits for adults.”
It’s also a big plus that the school doesn’t have any vending machines — which are usually stocked with calorie-laden sodas and chips, McKittrick said.
“By avoiding junk food . . . you’re going to help decrease blood sugar spikes and then crashes,” she said.
PS 244 created with the help of the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food.
“The food in their cafeteria is the envy of many,” said Coalition Executive Director Amie Hamlin, who has been fielding calls from other schools interested in creating healthier meal plans. “The children are getting the nutrients their bodies and brains need to function at their optimal levels.”