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Stranger Than Fiction: New York School Goes Meatless
posted by: Cindy Omlin | May 02, 2013, 11:11 PM   

It's out with the chicken nuggets, fries, and burgers, and in with the tofu, black beans, and veggies for Public School 244, in Flushing, New York. Opened in 2008, this school was founded on linking academics to a healthy lifestyle. It is now making headlines for going completely vegetarian.

"The founding of our school was based on health and nutrition and teaching kids how to make healthy choices in the belief that they would be more successful academically and in their life," said Principal and Founder Robert Groff.

The vegetarian initiative started small; with the cafeteria simply reducing the days per week traditional cafeteria foods, like chicken nuggets, were served. Whether it was the cultural demographics of the students (70% Asian and Indian) or the quality of the vegetarian cuisine, students continued to gravitate towards the meatless options.

Partnering with the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, the school made the seamless transition to an all vegetarian menu. "Our head cook is also a vegetarian herself and a parent in the school," said Groff. Menu items include tofu vegetable wraps, vegetarian chili, black beans, salsa, and roasted potatoes. Remarkably, each meal meets the same U.S.D.A. mandatory protein requirements as their other public school counterparts.

"We know that when students eat a healthy diet, they're able to focus better. Their immune systems are stronger, so they're sick less, and then they're in school more and they're able to focus and concentrate better, and therefore learn better," said Amie Hamlin, the executive director of New York Coalition for Healthy School Food.

This school's transition comes at a time when student advocates across the country are calling on schools to consider healthier options. From First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign, to reducing calories in student lunches, government officials are focusing on healthier eating and combating childhood obesity.

Still despite the push for eating right and exercising more, critics are calling these programs government overreach. "The government is trying to impose a new diet that children are not accustomed to," said Kyle Olson, CEO of the Education Actions Group Foundation. "It's not reasonable to expect them to either eat what the government deems healthy or go hungry."

What do you think about this school's new menu? Would it work in your school?

Comment below.


Originally posted by Ruthie at AAE.

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