New York City's public school system goes meat-free on Fridays

NEW YORK, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Bring on the broccoli.

New York City's public schools have started serving vegan meals once a week on Fridays, as part of an initiative by the city's Department of Education to introduce healthier food choices.

Items on the menu on the first day of the new food plan included vegan tacos, seasoned broccoli, and black bean and corn salad.

Cheese sandwiches and milk will also be available but otherwise the Friday menus will be entirely vegan in New York City's public school system - the largest in the United States, serving 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools.

"Plant-based options in schools means healthy eating and healthy living," the city's Department of Education said in a tweet.

"It's really a big shift from where they were with dairy-heavy foods like grilled cheese and pizza to things that are more sustainable and healthier for our students," said Dana Smith, Campaign Director for Meatless Monday.

Since 2019/20, the city's schools have been serving vegetarian meals on Mondays.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is vegan and has touted the health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet.

"In one voice we talk about fighting childhood obesity, diabetes, yet you go into a school building every day and you see the food that feeds our health care crisis," Adams said earlier in the week.

"And the children have been calling me and saying they want better food in school. I am going to do the best I can give them the options of a healthier diet," he said.

Dr. Vanita Rahman, clinic director at the Barnard Medical Center, praised the new initiative.

"I think this is a really good first step to bring this to school because children are vulnerable," she said. "They eat what they're given, whether at home or at school. They may not always have control over the food. So, New York City public schools offering this is a terrific first step."

Reporting by Christine Kiernan and Soren Larsen; editing by Diane Craft

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