NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Says Its Schools Will Have 'Meatless Mondays' This Fall, Claiming It Helps the Planet

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that all public schools in the city will have "Meatless Mondays" beginning this fall for the 2019-20 school year, stating it will help "cut back greenhouse emissions" by serving more fruits and vegetables and less beef.

The school district that serves 1.1 million children — the largest district in the country — began a pilot program with 15 schools in Brooklyn during the spring of 2018. The "Meatless Monday" menu consists of an all-vegetarian diet for breakfast and lunch each Monday, according to a press announcement from the city.

"Cutting back on meat a little will improve New Yorkers' health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," de Blasio said. "We're expanding Meatless Mondays to all public schools to keep our lunch and planet green for generations to come."

The mayor made his announcement at PS 130 elementary along with New York City Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Carranza, who's still in his first full year as chancellor, said the program leads to a healthier lifestyle for its students.

"Meatless Mondays are good for our students, communities and the environment," Carranza said. "Our 1.1 million students are taking the next step towards healthier, more sustainable lives. Our students and educators are truly leaders in this movement, and I salute them!"

If you want to know “what’s up,” ask students. Great breaking bread with you students at PS 130. I learned a lot! #ourstudentsrock @NYCSchools

— Chancellor Richard A. Carranza (@DOEChancellor) March 11, 2019

The mayor referred to Carranza as "one of the greatest voices of public education in this whole nation," and he continued to say other school districts around the country will try to copy New York City's new breakfast and lunch program.

The pilot program of 15 schools expanded to more schools in the fall of 2018 so the city's Department of Education (DOE) could monitor student feedback on a broader scale. "Meatless Mondays" will be a part of the school system's free lunch program that provides more than 150 million breakfasts and lunches free of charge per year, according to data from the 2017-18 school year.

Mark Chambers, who is the Director of the NYC Mayor's Office of Sustainability, said "Meatless Mondays" is healthy for both students and the planet.

"Reducing our appetite for meat is one of the single biggest ways individuals can reduce their environmental impact on our planet," Chambers said. "Meatless Mondays will introduce hundreds of thousands of young New Yorkers to the idea that small changes in their diet can create larger changes for their health and the health of our planet."

Andrea Strong, the Founder of the NYC Healthy School Food Alliance, said the childhood obesity rate in New York City schools has climbed to 1 in every 5 kindergarten children, and that oceans are "heating up 40 percent faster on average." She said more plant-based diets would help curb both of those.

"The solution is simple — if we move towards a plant-forward diet, we can fight the health crisis and reduce damage to our environment," Strong said. "It's noteworthy to point out that if New York City public schools swapped out a beef burger for a plant-based protein once a month, the city would emit 375,000 pounds less of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per year."

The city's DOE said replacing meat with an all-vegetarian diet on Mondays will be "cost-neutral," and that they'll meet with students to get ideas and finalize its menu for the upcoming school year.