Mayor Eric Adams made headlines on Thursday when he announced that New York City schools would be required to serve completely vegan lunches on Fridays, effective the following day. The mandate is off to a rocky start in the nation’s largest school system.
New Yorkers took to Twitter on Friday morning, sharing images of school lunches that left something to be desired: dry black bean tacos, bags of chips, sad-looking stir fries, and other meals that city officials claim to be nutrient-packed. Several users on the social media platform say their children were dished up food that wasn’t actually vegan, like lasagna and bean and cheese burritos.
“Vegan Fridays introduced students to plant-based options that will eventually improve the quality of life for thousands of New York City students,” according to a spokesperson for the mayor’s office. “Parents, students and principals across the city have given positive feedback on today’s launch and we are excited to continue the conversation of healthier options in schools.”
The new policy does come with some exceptions. Milk is still allowed in city schools, as required by the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Education said it would offer some “lighter dairy products” on Fridays as it transitions away from cheese completely. Non-vegan menu items are available upon request, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Education.
The sweeping change affects nearly one million public school students across the five boroughs. School lunches are among the only meals that some New Yorkers can count on, as State Senator Jessica Ramos pointed out on Twitter, especially as food insecurity and other financial stresses surge during the pandemic.
The program was part of a larger public health push from Adams, who credits his vegan diet with reversing his diabetes diagnosis. The initiative went beyond the mayor’s personal lifestyle choice to maintain a meat-free diet. He’s pushed for removing processed meats, such as bologna and pepperoni, from school lunch menus. Other vegan advocates argue eating less meat is said to help alleviate carbon emissions (as of 2021, the majority of greenhouse gas emissions in food production stemmed from the meat industry).
The mayor said on Thursday that he was “thrilled to see that all students will now have access to healthy foods that will prevent debilitating health conditions.” On Twitter, parents and elected officials appeared to be less convinced.
I asked my daughter to report on the first Vegan Friday meal at her NYC public school and she sent me this picture https://t.co/3nZMsoU5rl pic.twitter.com/boemKa5eIq— Jen Chung (@jenchung) February 4, 2022
.@NYCMayor I am as much a believer in the power of healthy food as you, but this ain’t it. This was served to a public school student #Seenin13 for Vegan Fridays. The only real meal some of our city’s kids can count on is what they get @ school. This wasn’t thought through. pic.twitter.com/nJEwmHYg2T— Jessica Ramos (@jessicaramos) February 4, 2022
This is the @NYCMayor new vegan option for Fridays. Most of the kids dumped this in the garbage or just ate the cookies. It smelled like armpits & it was completely unappetizing. Why would you remove options for students? A dry cheese sandwich isn’t going to cut it. @NYCSchools pic.twitter.com/PKot8IyNp6— Melissa (@salemviolets) February 4, 2022
There was another option—black beans, mix of veggies, tomato, and corn—but she said most kids got the packaged burrito. Her meal also had a banana and a bag of Tostitos. pic.twitter.com/xunwRAWQio— Jen Chung (@jenchung) February 4, 2022