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News and Speeches

Chancellor Walcott Spotlights the First New York City Public School to Serve a Vegetarian Menu Five Days a Week


Vegetable wraps, black beans, falafel and vegetarian chili on the menu at the first public school in a major American city to serve an all-vegetarian menu

Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott today congratulated PS 244, the Active Learning Elementary School, in Flushing for being the first New York City public school to serve an all-vegetarian menu. It is believed to be one of the first public schools in America to do so.

The menu includes healthy recipes such as roasted chickpeas, braised black beans with plantains, tofu vegetable wrap with cucumber salad, vegetarian chili served with brown rice, falafel, and roasted tofu with Asian sesame sauce. The school, which opened in 2008, began offering a vegetarian lunch three times a week and then increased it to four times a week. This year it became the first NYC public school to have a vegetarian menu for all meals.

Today’s lunch included black beans and cheddar quesadilla served with salsa and red roasted potatoes.

“I am proud of the students and staff for trailblazing this extraordinary path,” Chancellor Walcott said. “Our school meals program has evolved under the Bloomberg Administration to offer dishes that meet our nutritional standards. I want to thank the Office of SchoolFood and the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food for working collaboratively to create vegetarian meals.”

“We created PS 244 based on a principle of a healthy lifestyle and academic achievement,” Principal Robert Groff, one of the school’s founders, said. “We discovered early on that our kids were gravitating toward our vegetarian offerings, and we kept expanding the program to meet the demand. The vegetarian menu fits right in with our mission and we are thrilled that our students in Pre-Kindergarten all the way up to Grade 3 understand the importance of healthy and nutritious meals.”

“Our breakfast and lunch program offers nutritious and delicious meals for all students,” Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm said. “For students at PS 244, we worked together to create a menu that meets our nutritional standards and at the same time offers delicious meals.”

“Since 2004, we have made improvements to breakfast and lunch that offer meals low in sodium and calories,” said Eric Goldstein, CEO of School Support Services. “Our Office of SchoolFood staff worked with the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food and PS 244 to come up with healthy vegetarian meals.” 

The New York Coalition for Healthy School Food has partnered with PS244 and the Office of SchoolFood since 2009. At the time, the Coalition introduced its Cool School Food Program, which includes the development and introduction of plant-based entrée recipes. In 2012, the partnership created a vegetarian lunch menu that is healthy, low in cholesterol and saturated fat, and high in fiber.

Amie Hamlin, Executive Director of New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, said,  “Plant-based, nutrient-dense options help students do better in school, and reduce global warming.

We are thrilled that our Cool School Food program, the DOE Office of SchoolFood and PS244 are responsible for the first public school I know of that offers a vegetarian menu. We are sure that with time and the understanding of the powerful impact of whole foods plant-based nutrition on disease prevention and learning, that PS244 will be the first of many schools to adopt a vegetarian menu.”