Not too cool for school: First all-vegetarian public school gets it right

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A school in New York has become the first all-vegetarian traditional public school in the country.  Yes, public.

I can only imagine the disbelief saturating the smoke-filled air of dark-room discussions among the top brass of the meat industry. At least, that’s the way I picture it. But I really wouldn’t mind being a fly on the wall when the topic comes up.

How could this happen?

Public School 244Q, in Queens, New York City, teamed up with an organization called the NY Coalition for Healthy School Food to first integrate all-vegetarian lunches three days a week, then to make the complete transition to ditching serving dead animals to students all five days.

And you can just imagine the horror of forcing American children to sustain themselves from noon to 3 on a bloodless meal.

Surprisingly – or not – the outrage is confined mostly to the comments’ section of all the news sites that have covered the school that comes right out and says that if we want healthier kids then we shouldn’t be feeding them meat (or processed foods or sodas, etc.).

According to various news reports, students and their parents seem to accept the vegetarian menu, and even really like the food being served.

That’s 400 students growing up with the seed already planted questioning meat eating, for whatever reason.

I cried when I saw kids step on bugs as a kid, but I never once equated a hamburger with a real creature until my early 20s. And I didn’t seriously associate food with health until a little later even. What a lot of childhood sickness I could have avoided had I gone to this school.

Although I was lucky enough to recover, I may still have bad news to look forward to.

The NY Coalition for Healthy School Food’s Web site lists a Nutrition 101 section with a lot of healthy food for thought.

One example to highlight the reason for removing meat from the kid’s lunches comes from the American Cancer Society:

 1 hotdog or 2 slices of bologna a week are enough to increase colorectal cancer risk by 30 – 50% in adult women, and children are more susceptible to carcinogens than adults. ~ American Cancer Society, News Center: Eating Lots of Red Meat Linked to Colon Cancer

My favorites were the squeezy cheese-filled hot dogs – cheap, quick, easy – and until they were gone I could feast. I feel let down. But if no one told my parents or aunts or uncles or grandparents, how were they to know that poison could be sold in supermarkets and labeled as food?

And if true, holistic nutrition – meaning not tainted with industry influence – were not an educational priority in school, why would any of their generations consider it one of the most important building blocks for a healthy life and world?

Is it too premature to tease myself with the thought that this could become a trend?

According to the NY Post, the coalition has already been approached by other interested schools.

I guess they’re tired of getting all the leftover downer meat the government buys up to feed to kids in the National School Lunch Program.

But while our government shamelessly peddles industry-tainted nutritional information in the form of the USDA’s food pyramid, dooming our nation’s kids to an end met by diabetes, heart disease and cancer, a largely unknown school in New York quietly says no to all these things and sets its kids on that road less taken, and that will make all the difference.

Photo via U.S. Department of Agriculture

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Tina is a journalist and mother of three who's lived all her life in the South Bay of Los Angeles except for a two-year stint in the heart of Spain. She believes humans have the capacity to make this a beautiful world for all species to live, and mothers have a special charge to raise their children to enjoy, love and respect all creatures.

  • Shadow8088

    Look, I have nothing against vegetarianism or veganism personally. If you choose to remove meat or all forms of animal products from your diet, hey, more power to you. The problem here is, for you and everyone like you, it is a CHOICE. Forcing children to eat vegetarian is wrong. The key word here is “forcing.” You want to offer children meatless options, go for it. Heck, if you want to make the entire menu vegetarian fine, but you should still have to offer some form of non-vegetarian option. Its not like these kids have a choice as to what school they go to.

    • New York Coalition for Healthy

      The children have the option to bring the food that they want from home, including meat. So they do have choice. And while I appreciate Tina’s sentiment about animals, this decision was made for the children’s health. As it turns out, in this particular school, the decision was actually made by the families in conjunction with the school and my organization. Virtually all families agreed with and applauded this decision – because they want what is best for their kids.

  • New York Coalition for Healthy

    I also wanted to note that the picture illustrating this article is not PS244. It if fine for illustrative purposes, just wanted readers to know that’s not us.

    • Ian

      Thanks for your comments. If you have a photo of PS244 we can use instead, please email me at ian@greenerideal.com