NYC celebrates first ‘MeatOut Day’


Thomas Good | Wikimedia

Amanda Salazar, Editor-in-Chief

New York City celebrated its first-ever “MeatOut Day,” a vegan holiday that celebrates plant-based diets, from March 20 through March 25.

“Plant-based meals are delicious and nutritious, which is why I previously called for vegetarian and vegan options in schools,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said. “I’m thrilled to see that all students will now have access to healthy foods that will prevent debilitating health conditions.”

“MeatOut Day” is a weeklong holiday created by the animal rights group Farm Animal Rights Movement back in 1985. To date, 40 cities across the United States celebrate the holiday.

New York City’s goal was to promote healthy eating through a week of special vegan menus at city restaurants and various events related to the cause. These efforts will work toward the mayor’s healthy New York goal.

Public schools had their first “Vegan Friday” on Feb. 4, just one day after city Mayor Eric Adams announced that all public K through 12 schools will be serving vegan lunches every Friday.

“Plant-based options in schools means healthy eating and healthy living, and improving the quality of life for thousands of New York City students,” Adams said in a statement to Gothamist.

For years, New York City had talked about improving the food served to students at the 1,700 public schools across the five boroughs.

At times, this conversation had been centered around taste and quality of food, with the argument being that the food had to be appetizing and appealing to students who might have picky tastes.

Now it seems that the conversation has fully converted to the topic of health.

In March 2019, former Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city’s schools would be having “Meatless Mondays” for breakfast and lunch starting in the 2019-2020 school year. These meals would still have cheese but were otherwise vegetarian.

“Vegan Fridays” took that one step further and cut the dairy out of school breakfasts and lunches on Fridays, except for the milk cartons that must legally be offered.

Adams himself has been vegan for six years now, eating a plant-based diet to improve his physical health after it started deteriorating. The former Brooklyn borough president credits his healthy diet with reversing the effects of Type 2 diabetes, which had caused him to temporarily lose vision in one of his eyes.

He has now regained full vision in his left eye and reversed nerve damage in his hands and feet that were caused by his now-gone diabetes. Adams also said that he lost more than 30 pounds as a direct result from changing his diet.

Adams has now made it his mission to improve the health of all New Yorkers, starting with the city’s youngest. “Vegan Fridays” and the newly celebrated “MeatOut Day” are small parts of his goal.

“In one voice we talk about fighting childhood obesity, diabetes, yet you go into a school building every day and you see the food that feeds our health care crisis,” Adams said. “And the children have been calling me and saying they want better food in school. I am going to do the best I can give them the options of a healthier diet.”

For the inaugural “Vegan Friday,” lunch was supposed to be some combination of black bean tacos, tortilla chips, black bean and corn salad, apple slices and bananas, though social media posts from some parents show the “vegan” option at their child’s school being non-vegan, such as black bean and cheese burritos.

Students also have the ability to request a non-vegan meal on Fridays. This second option is a cheese sandwich.

“The earlier in life that we can establish healthful eating habits, the better,” Northwell Health Director of Cardiovascular Prevention and Lenox Hill Hospital Director of Women’s Heart Health Eugenia Gianos said.

“I see our young people struggle with overweight, obesity and even diabetes at younger and younger ages,” she added. “Research shows that plant-based diets help people achieve a healthy weight, so I applaud this positive step.”