Earlier this year, Public School 244, an elementary school in Queens, New York City, announced that its cafeteria is now 100 percent meatless — and it just turned in its own report card to reflect how its 400 students are responding to and benefiting from the all-vegetarian meals.
According to school officials quoted in the New York Daily News, since implementing a meat-free menu in January, the students’ attendance, test scores — and even their energy levels and attention spans — have all notably improved.
The article also mentions that while kids can opt to bring their own non-vegetarian lunches, around 90 percent of students choose the vegetarian school cafeteria meals, which includes organic roasted tofu and braised black beans.
Even more beneficial are the life-long lessons about healthy-eating, an idea that doesn’t end when the final school bell rings. The students take a weekly class on nutrition, and they’re sharing what they’ve learned with their families.
These positive findings reinforce a 2012 study that found school districts that have enacted strong changes in their school nutrition policies (such as New York City and Los Angeles) are seeing childhood obesity rates drop.
Luckily, school districts across the country are getting the message. The Baltimore City Public School system implemented Meatless Mondays in 2009 — serving all-vegetarian meals to 80,000 students every week on Mondays. Just this year, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest public school system, launched a 100 percent Meatless Monday menu in all of its cafeterias following a city council resolution supporting the campaign. And, most recently, the San Diego Unified School District began incorporating Meatless Mondays in kindergarten through eighth grade cafeterias.
Want to bring more vegetarian options to a school in your area? Learn more about the Meatless Monday campaign, and then set up an interview with a school administrator to talk more about it!