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Can Rachael Ray Make NYC Kids Like Vegan School Lunches?

Plus, Little Italy’s oldest cheese shop files for bankruptcy — and more intel

A student eats a vegan meal served for lunch (with milk as a drink) at Yung Wing School P.S. 124.
A student sits down with a “vegan” meal, milk included, during the city’s first Vegan Friday.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

City officials announced this week a new initiative between the Department of Education and a small group of celebrity chefs targeted at improving the quality of the city’s vegan school lunches. The Chefs Council, as it’s called, is made up of a dozen media personalities, restaurant owners, and activists, including daytime television host Rachael Ray and JJ Johnson, the celebrated restaurateur behind Fieldtrip. Over the course of the 2022 to 2023 school year, the group will create over 100 plant-based recipes with input from students and parents, then test them at schools across the five boroughs, according to a press release from the city. The program follows a rocky rollout of the city’s Vegan Friday school lunch initiative earlier this year, in which students were served bagged chips and burritos with cheese.

Little Italy’s oldest cheese shop files for bankruptcy

Alleva Dairy, a Little Italy cheese shop that’s been operating on Grand Street for over a century, has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy over some $500,000 in unpaid rent amassed during the pandemic. According to a spokesperson for the shop, owner Karen King and the building’s landlord weren’t able to reach an agreement to pay off the rent. “Today is one of the saddest days in the 130-year history of this illustrious Little Italy landmark,” King said in a statement. “We will continue to strive to keep Alleva Dairy alive.”

Tell us how you really feel

The fate of permanent outdoor dining, once thought to be assured, increasingly seems to hang in the balance — and city officials aren’t mincing words. “Outdoor dining, in my perspective, should be a sidewalk,” City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said on Wednesday morning. “The street extensions were designed to be temporary.” Others, including Mayor Eric Adams and Council Member Erik Bottcher, have voiced support for the program as permanent outdoor dining legislation is put on hold due to a lawsuit against the city, according to,

Two new restaurants open for lunch

Cafe Spaghetti, a Carroll Gardens newcomer with a hell of a backyard, will soon be open for lunch on weekends. Starting Saturday, October 8, the restaurant will open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with a menu that includes ricotta pancakes, chicken cutlet sandwiches, and more. Across the East River, Tribeca’s Smyth Tavern is now open for breakfast and lunch, as well, starting at 7 a.m. daily. An online menu lists a crispy chicken sandwich, a $32 shrimp cocktail, and the bacon jam burger from its dinner menu.