The school district announced the weekly menu change on social media last week.
In a tweet, the district wrote: “NEW: @NYCschools cafeterias are going vegan on Fridays! Plant-based options in schools mean healthy eating and healthy living, and improving the quality of life for thousands of NYC students.”
The city’s public schools already offer vegan options daily, but now the district’s main meal on Fridays will be vegan, according to the Associated Press.
Even though the meal will be vegan, students will be able to request non-vegan options, the AP reported. Additionally, students will always have access to milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hummus and pretzels.
For the district’s first vegan Friday, students were served “vegan veggie tacos” with tortilla and salsa, with broccoli as well as a carrot and lemon salad on the side, according to the AP.
Other vegan Friday meals this month will include a Mediterranean chickpea dish with rice or pasta, and a black bean and plantain rice bowl, AP reported. The vegan meals have reportedly been tested and approved by small groups of students.
The New York City public school district, the largest school district in the U.S., has been offering Meatless Mondays since 2019 and Meatless Fridays since April, according to the AP. The district has about 938,000 students.
The AP reported that 14% of school districts across the country offered vegan meals and 56% offered vegetarian meals in at least one of their schools, according to a 2018 survey from the School Nutrition Association.
The move for vegan Fridays in New York City was pushed by the city’s new Mayor Eric Adams, who follows a plant-based diet himself.
“I can’t tell people what to put on their grills on the weekend. But darn it, we should not be feeding the health care crisis in our prisons, our hospitals, and most importantly, in our schools, so we want to go in a more healthy direction,” Adams said in an interview on WNBC-TV on Friday.
Nearly 40% of New York City public school children in grades K-8 were overweight or obese, according to data cited by the city in 2019.
Angela Odoms-Young, an associate professor in the nutritional sciences division at Cornell University who helped develop the nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program, told the AP that the shift in New York City schools is “innovative and exciting.”
She said that the menu change can help students to get their full recommended servings of fruit and vegetables per day and expose them to foods they might not typically eat. The change could also reinforce long-term healthy habits and dispel the idea that children are resistant to eating vegetables.
“It doesn’t just have to be broccoli,” Odoms-Young said. “It can just be a whole host of things that maybe kids would eat — particularly if it’s prepared in different ways.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.