A Vegetarian Elementary School
A public school in NYC went completely vegetarian in an effort to curb childhood obesity. Should Boston be next?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,Â more than a third ofÂ childrenÂ andÂ adolescentsÂ wereÂ overweightÂ or obese in 2010.
That is an astounding number, and in a few years, it will translate into a lot ofÂ overweightÂ adults. The American Medical Association just named obesity a disease. Some doctors think it is a necessary call to action, while others are dismissing the findings. Regardless of where you stand on the issue,Â obesityÂ is in the news daily and will continue to be,Â especiallyÂ if weÂ keepÂ getting bigger.
Put it this way: even Facebook knows if you’re overweight.Â We seem to be in a neverendingÂ cycle that won’t be fixed unless we doÂ somethingÂ about this epidemic.Â And one NYC public school decided it was time for them to take action.
Writing for Everyday Health, Dr. Sanjay GuptaÂ reports that P.S. 244 in Queens, a kindergarden through third grade public school, isÂ servingÂ theÂ students vegetarian meals â€” onlyÂ vegetarianÂ meals. It’s the first in NYC and only one of a handful in the nation. And it seems to be working.
P.S. 244 principal tells Everyday Health:
â€śWe founded the school [in 2008] on a vision of health and nutrition,” said Robert Groff, principal of P.S. 244, a pre-kindergarten to third grade school in Flushing, Queens, with 400 students. â€śThis is us trying to work toward decreasing childhood obesity and childhood diabetes.â€ť
P.S. 244â€™s shift to a strictly vegetarian menu in January was a gradual one, in partnership with the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food and the NYC Office of SchoolFood. All menu items had to be approved through the Office of SchoolFood and meet strict guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. â€śOver the course of the last five years, it came to be that the healthiest food options were vegetarian ones,â€ť according to Groff.
For those people concerned about kids getting their protein (a common misconception),Â Amie Hamlin, executive director of the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, tells Everyday Health, â€śthere is no concern about the [amount of] proteinâ€ť in the schoolâ€™s meals. She references an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics statement when talking to Everyday Health that well-planned vegetarian diets are â€śhealthful [and] nutritionally adequate.â€ť
According to the report, some examples of the rotating menu (that actually don’t seem that healthy, but when madeÂ appropriatelyÂ can be) includeÂ black bean quesadillas, chili and steamed brown rice in a wheat wrap, cheesy baked rotini, pizza bagels, and thereâ€™s also regular salad bar.
Has the experiment worked?Â P.S. 244 has been tracking studentsâ€™ body mass indexes (BMI), and Groff says that so far the results have beenÂ promising. “Weâ€™ve seen a significant difference over the course of a year in our average body mass index,â€ť she says in the report.
Another positive outcome is teaching students about healthy eating early on in life. HopefullyÂ they will carry those lessons into adulthood. And don’t worry carnivore parentsâ€” you can send your child toÂ schoolÂ with all the meat you want. Meat has not been banned from the premises, they just don’t serve it at lunch.
What do you think? Should Boston follow its lead?
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/blog/2013/06/26/school-new-york-vegetarian-boston/