‘Vegan Fridays’ fails to help students stay healthy

Tahreem Ashraf

The “Vegan Fridays” initiative at New York City schools faced backlash for its unpreparedness and unhealthy choices that were not even vegan. Instead of introducing students to vegan friendly foods, authorities need to be more focused on providing a healthy diet, which is crucial for students’ growth.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who is vegan himself, announced the initiative of only plant- based food on Fridays for over one million students in grades K-12 on Feb. 3.

Following the “Meatless Mondays” introduced by the New York City Department of Education in 2019, Adams calls the policy an improvement to “the quality of life for thousands of New York City students.”

“I’m thrilled to see that all students will now have access to healthy foods that will prevent debilitating health conditions,” Adams said.

He also mentioned that the vegan menu was taste-tested by a group of students in advance. However, flavored non-fat milk will still be served according to the United States Department of Agriculture guidelines.

On Feb. 4, the inaugural Vegan Friday parents and students circulated pictures of unappetizing and non-vegan food served in schools on Twitter.

“Veganism is just junk food rebranded as an ethical movement,” a Twitter user wrote and shared a picture of a packed black bean cheese burrito served to students, which contained dairy and wasn’t vegan.

New York Sen. Jessica Ramos tweeted a photo of a lunch tray containing Tostitos chips, a pack of apple slices and stir-fried veggies.

“@NYCMayor I am as much a believer in the power of healthy food as you, but this ain’t it,” she wrote. “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.”

The Department of Education told NY1 that most schools were already serving vegan or vegetarian options which students could get upon request. Minor changes by Adams only exaggerated the status quo.

“As we learned from Meatless Mondays, meat is typically replaced by starchy foods like pizza bagels and bean salads,” The Daily News said. “These foods unfortunately deliver less nutrition for more calories.”

A 2021 study found that children who take vegan diets have lower levels of unhealthy cholesterol and body fat, but those children are shorter in height than non-vegans and also tend to have vitamin deficiencies and low bone mineral content.

Imposing a vegan lifestyle on students is not a healthy option.