New York schools join Meatless Monday

Last year’s successful pilot rolled out across America’s largest school system

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio with schoolchildren eating lunch, and schoolchildren with Meatless Monday banner

This year is shaping up to be a healthier one for children in the Big Apple – and a greener one for the environment – with news that New York City schools are to join Meatless Monday, MFM’s sister organisation in the US.

The city’s mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all pupils will now get the chance to enjoy greener, more nutritious meals at the start of the week, after a successful pilot programme last year. Fifteen schools in Brooklyn took part in Meatless Monday last spring, joining pupils in 40 other schools across New York already enjoying a meat free Monday. Three state-run schools in the city are entirely meat free.

The expansion of the initiative means that, from the start of the new term in September, canteens in 1,800 public – i.e. state-run – schools will be serving a vegetarian breakfast and lunch on a Monday. New York City’s school system is the largest in America, and the decision is likely to inspire others around the country to follow suit, addressing as it does concerns about diet and the environment.

As the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, explained when he announced the decision: “Cutting back on meat a little will improve New Yorkers’ health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We’re expanding Meatless Mondays to all public schools to keep our lunch and planet green for generations to come. People are going to look at this and they’re going to start to emulate what the New York City schools are doing.”

Mark Chambers, director of the mayor’s Office of Sustainability, called cutting back on the amount of meat we eat “one of the single biggest ways individuals can reduce their environmental impact on our planet.” He added: “Meatless Mondays will introduce hundreds of thousands of young New Yorkers to the idea that small changes in their diet can create larger changes for their health and the health of our planet.”

As well as eating with people and planet in mind, New York schools also offer recycling facilities that teach pupils how to sort their food waste from recyclables. They have also banned polystyrene trays in favour of compostable plates.

One of the leaders of New York City’s five boroughs, James Oddo, president of Staten Island, has given his full support to the scheme. “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 to 14 show 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.”

In 2015, Meat Free Monday threw its weight behind a resolution that would see New York’s city council join Meatless Monday and serve greener grub at the start of the week. It was intended to promote and expand efforts to serve meat free food across the city. Mission accomplished!

If you want to get your school involved in Meat Free Monday, check out the advice and resources on our schools page.