The “mystery meat” in school lunches is often joked about among students.
But for students in New York City, there will be no such mystery. On Mondays, at least.
This is because the New York City administration has announced that all public schools in the city will have “Meatless Mondays” for the 2019-2020 school year. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the new meal program on Mondays.
A pilot program was tried out in 15 schools last spring where students were fed all-vegetarian breakfast and lunch offerings. With the success of the pilot program, it is now being expanded to all public schools in the city.
“Cutting back on meat a little will improve New Yorkers’ health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” de Blasio told reporters at the news conference as he made his announcement. “We’re expanding Meatless Mondays to all public schools to keep our lunch and planet green for generations to come.”
However, De Blasio added that parents can still send their children to school with packed lunches that contain meat if they prefer to do so. But advocates of Meatless Mondays emphasize the health benefits of eating less meat.
According to Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian who also wrote the book “Plant-Powered for Life,” research results consistently prove that plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of obesity, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
“Even going meatless one day a week can make a difference, as you increase all of those whole plant foods — beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits — and decrease more animal foods, in particular, red and processed meat. High intakes of these foods have been linked with increased disease risk,” Palmer said.
But the benefits go beyond just health, say proponents. Reducing meat consumption around the world is also good for the planet.
The journal Nature published a study in October that showed that the production of animal products produces most of the food-related greenhouse gas emissions, specifically up to 78% of total agricultural emissions.
This means that reducing meat consumption will also reduce the number of greenhouse gases released around the world.
But like any initiative, not everyone will be on board with it.
In 2012, the US Department of Agriculture encouraged its employees to have Meatless Mondays but was forced to reverse itself when the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association protested by accusing the USDA of taking part in an “animal rights extremist campaign to ultimately end meat consumption.”
However, New York school officials said going meatless, even once a week, is simply good sense.
“For those who scoff at this notion, I have some simple advice: Look at the science. Look at the data. Look at childhood obesity. Look at pre-diabetes diagnoses. Look at the fact that 65% of American kids age 12 to 14 shows 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,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo.
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