New York City’s “Vegan Fridays” school-food program is as vegan as its mayor—that is, not entirely
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February 2022

As it turns out, prior to last week, most New York City schools were already serving a combination of vegan and vegetarian items to students on Mondays and Fridays. When meat or dairy products were served, students could typically request a vegan alternative, the education department told local news station NY1. In other words, the Vegan Fridays initiative wasn’t as much a complete overhaul of the status quo, as much as it was a slight change in emphasis on ingredients that were already on the menu.

Alex Hinton
Graphic by Alex Hinton | Source Image: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

But does it deserve at least an ‘E’ for effort?

Last week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced the launch of a new “Vegan Fridays” initiative at the largest school district in the country. Depending on where you were on the internet at the time, the announcement landed with either a splash or a sputter.

On the inaugural Vegan Friday, one day after the announcement, photos of clearly non-vegan options, or of seemingly vegan-yet-unappetizing meals, began to circulate on Twitter.

“This was served to a public school student […] for Vegan Fridays,” Jessica Ramos, a New York State senator, tweeted. Her comment accompanied a photo of a cafeteria tray carrying a bag of chips, a few apple slices, and a scoop of what looked like a stir-fry medley of zucchini, mushrooms, and corn. (After a quick browse of the city’s school food menu for the month of February, our best guess is that this was the “vegan veggie tacos” offering.) “The only real meal some of our city’s kids can count on is what they get @ school. This wasn’t thought through.”


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