From February 2022 the cafeterias of all New York City’s schools will become vegan-focused by serving mostly plant-based dishes. The ‘Vegan Fridays’ menu will eventually exclude all animal products except for cow’s milk, as federal USDA guidelines make it compulsory to serve it. Currently, in some of Fridays’ menus, there are still some animal products such as Macaroni and Cheese and turkey sandwiches, but it is expected these may eventually be phased out.
Jenna Lyle, the Department of Education (DOE) press secretary, confirmed that the department will now add Vegan Fridays to the school menus, but non-vegan options will still be available on request.
When the plant-based Eric Adams was elected as NYC Mayor in 2021 after he had introduced #MeatlessMondays in 2020 when he was the Brooklyn Borough President, the Vegan Fridays initiative in schools was a logical step to expect. He said to the New York Daily News: “Plant-based meals are delicious and nutritious, which is why I previously called for vegetarian and vegan options in schools. I’m thrilled to see that all students will now have access to healthy foods that will prevent debilitating health conditions.” He is known for having beaten type two diabetes by switching to a plant-based diet and having written a book about it.
The New York City Department of Education feeds over 960,000 children a day, so between Meatless Mondays and Vegan Fridays, a considerable reduction of the city’s carbon and blood footprint can be achieved. There is also a new bill proposed in California that is trying to incentivise plant-based food in schools. But what is needed now is that the USDA updates its guidance and removes the compulsion to serve animal milk in schools. It is not only an out-of-date policy that does no longer reflect the current advice of many reputable physicians (in 2019 12,000 doctors stated that “guidelines promoting cow’s milk are harmful to children”) but it can be seen as a racially unjust policy as well because the prevalence of lactose intolerance is higher in several marginalised communities. The National Institutes of Health estimates 95% of Asian Americans, 60-80% of African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews, 80-100% of Native Americans, and 50-80% of Hispanics are lactose intolerant.