Tag Archives: New York

Another all-veg school

NY Elementary school 1Another public school in New York City just went all vegetarian – and this time it was the kids who asked for it.  This is the third New York City public school to go all veg. The school’s principal, Arlene Ramos, revealed that students asked for healthier, meatless options and that she is proud to be able to introduce the new menu. “My students have expressed an interest in healthier eating, and the school gave them the option to choose this menu I am very proud of their decision.” Lentil sloppy Joes, pasta fagioli, Mexicali chili, braised black beans with plantains, and teriyaki crunchy tofu will now be the lunch options for the 1,250 pre-K through 5th graders at Public School 1, Bergen Elementary School.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams—who adopted a vegan diet last October to conquer his type 2 diabetes—supports the menu update. “It is particularly exciting to learn that this is a youth-driven initiative,” Adams said. The drive for all New York City public schools to go all veg is a campaign of New York Coalition for Healthy School Food headed by Amy Hamlin.  We’ve previously written about the other schools that have gone all veg.

For years we have heard every excuse from many of Washington’s public schools. But, if a city as big and diverse as New York can do it, we’re sure Seattle can as well. Let’s hope New York City will set an example for Seattle and other cities to follow.

Second All-Veg Public School

Principal Maggie Siena

Principal Maggie Siena

Here’s something to cheer about. The second public school in history has just gone all vegetarian. PS (Public School) 342 in New York City has recently announced the move, only 18 months after the first public school, PS 244 became the first ever public school go all-vegetarian.

Principal Maggie Siena said in a statement, “We decided to implement the vegetarian menu because of the health benefits of a diet including more legumes, vegetables and whole grains and our concerns about the environmental impact of meat production. As it turns out, the vegetarian dishes are pretty delicious, too — we are seeing more kids trying and liking chickpeas, brown rice and whole wheat pasta — kale salad was a huge hit.”

The implementation of the vegetarian menu was done with the help of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, a non profit dedicated to getting whole plant foods into schools across the New York City area. Congratulations go to Amie Hamlin, their executive director, for helping this through. They were behind the first school going all vegetarian and now they’ve done it again. Amie says, “they get more fiber, they get less cholesterol, less saturated fat and more of the healthy fighter nutrients that come from plants.”

Parents and kids alike seem happy with the change in both schools. When the first school went all vegetarian, their principal reported that improved test scores and longer attention spans by its students happened within nine months.

At two public schools in New York City, the closest thing to mystery meat one will find on the lunch tray is tofu. Seattle, your turn next!

New York Patients receive Fruit and Veggie Prescriptions

Thomas Farley, city health commissioner, holds up one of the coupons that doctors can “prescribe” to encourage patients to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Thomas Farley, city health commissioner, holds up one of the coupons that doctors can “prescribe” to encourage patients to eat more fruits and vegetables.

It’s no secret that most Americans do not eat nearly enough fruits and vegetables. This problem is especially acute in lower income groups. The growing obesity problem is also no secret, with one third of Americans now qualifying as overweight and another one third as obese. It’s here, as with other health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, that plant foods form a very powerful part of the solution. In fact, vegetarians have a 45% decreased risk of being overweight or obese, and vegans are, on average, 30 pounds thinner than meat eaters with a rather desirable BMI of only about 23. This dietary advantage is especially true of those consuming unprocessed plant foods and produce to be found at farmers’ markets.

In an effort to get disadvantaged New Yorkers to eat a little healthier, the city is launching a pilot program at two hospitals that will have New Yorkers receive “prescriptions” that can be used to purchase fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, and other plant foods such as whole grain corn on the cob, beans and even nuts.

Patients will receive Health Bucks, $2 coupons that can be used at any of the 142 farmers markets across the city, including farmers’ markets set up at the hospitals themselves. Doctors will then monitor the patients in the pilot program over the course of four months.  Patients will have their weight and body mass index evaluated by their doctor, as well receive counseling on healthy eating.

The program, part of a national campaign to help doctors change the eating habits of their patients, will focus on low-income, high-risk patients who desperately need to change their diet. This program is now being launched at Harlem Hospital in Manhattan and Lincoln Medical Center in the South Bronx.

Dr. Katherine Szema, chief of pediatrics at Lincoln, said the program aims to get parents and their kids to eat at least one more serving of fruits or vegetables each day. “Kids usually kind of dread coming to the doctor to talk about their obesity,” she said. “But this is a positive thing. They look forward to it.” If the “prescriptions” are found successful in lowering obesity among the 140 patients in the pilot program, the city will look to expand the program to other low-income neighborhoods.

“Each dollar invested in the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program nourishes public hospital patients and their families, boosts revenue at farmers markets, and supports overall community health,” Deputy Mayor Gibbs said at a press conference. “Farmers markets support the City’s efforts to keep communities fit by providing healthy and affordable dietary options in a localized setting.”

A recent study by Swedish researchers, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that people who ate fewer than five servings of fruit and vegetables a day were more likely to die early.  “A food environment full of processed foods full of fat, sugar and salt is contributing to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and other chronic diseases,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said in a statement. According to Farley, about one in 10 New Yorkers don’t eat any fruits or vegetables in a given day, but in the Bronx, that number is a shocking five in 10 adults. “The Fruit and Vegetable Prescription program is a creative approach that, with the inclusion of “Health Bucks”, will enable at-risk patients to purchase the fruits and vegetables that will help them stay healthy…. This is probably going to prevent an awful lot of disease in the long term” said Dr. Farley.

Bronx resident Tammy Futch says she’s lost weight, and her 11-year-old son has dropped 20 pounds since joining the program. “He was one that never ate vegetables. He used to be a McDonald’s baby,” she said. Tammy Futch, who lives in the Patterson Houses in Mott Haven, said the program was a huge success for her shrinking, 11-year-old son, Ty-J. Her son says his fast-food favorites were replaced with beets, corn, carrots, strawberries and avocados.

The FVRx, short for Fruit and Vegetable Prescription program, was started by Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit that supports small and mid-sized farms in Massachusetts, Maine, California and Rhode Island. Last year, the program was expanded to include 12 sites in seven more states, including New York and the District of Columbia. Lincoln Medical Center and Harlem Hospital Center are the first hospitals to join the program, according to Wholesome Wave.

Long known for serving some of the unhealthiest food to both patients and staff alike, this program comes as a long awaited improvement in hospitals’ recognition of the power of plant foods to prevent and even reverse a number of common diseases.

While your local hospital may not be giving out coupons for the local farmers’ market just yet, there’s nothing to stop you from including more healthy fruits and vegetables into your diet yourself.  Check out your nearest farmers’ market, and enjoy the summer’s bounty.