All public hospitals in New York City (NYC) will now offer plant-based options for each of the three million meals they serve to their patients for lunch and dinner each year. This initiative started in some of the hospitals in March 2022, but by September all 11 hospitals in the city have adopted it. Meat options will still be available for each of these meals for the patients who want them, but at least now there always will be a plant-based option as well.
Although this news has been reported as the hospitals now serving plant-based meals “by default”, this is not quite accurate as the change only means that plant-based options will be the “primary option” for inpatients, not that they will have to eat it if they do not specify what they want (in modern hospitals, patients are normally allowed to choose between several options per meal).
The non-profit The Better Food Foundation partnered with New York City Health + Hospitals (H + H) and the Mayor’s Office to implement this change. As of mid-October 2022, around 60% of patients have chosen plant-based dishes, whilst only 1 % of the patients identified as vegetarian or vegan.
A spokesperson for The Better Food Foundation said, “While NYC is beckoning in an exciting future, it’s also returning to its people’s roots. Plant-based eating has been an integral part of food cultures and religions throughout history…In culturally diverse NYC, cantering inclusive food choices on the menu is even more important.”
The NYC pescatarian mayor Eric Adams said, “This transformative program is already changing lives, empowering patients to take control of their own health and further cementing New York City as a leader in preventive medicine.” Since he became mayor in January 2022, the city has brought in “Plant-Powered Fridays” in schools serving mostly plant-based dishes, expanded the Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program to public hospitals, and signed a proclamation that makes 20th March an official MeatOut Day in the city. Hopefully, the next step would be to ban all animal products from all catering in public institutions (as Oxfordshire County Council in England did) and ban horse-drawn carriages (which most New Yorkers would support).