Please, sir, can I have some more kale? Schools go vegetarian

A New York City school has gone veggie as part of a city-wide health drive. And it isn't the first

Would you like the tofu roasted in sesame sauce, the felafel and cucumber salad, or the braised black beans and plantains? These are some of the exotic choices at the first school in the US to take meat off the menu.

Public School 244Q, in Queens, New York City, has introduced  exclusively vegetarian lunches as part of a city-wide mission to improve public health. And the school’s 400 pupils , aged four to nine, can’t get enough.

“This is so good!” Marian Satti, nine, told the New York Daily News while devouring a black-bean and Cheddar cheese quesadilla. “I’m enjoying that it didn’t have a lot of salt in it.”

When Jamie Oliver took his healthy-eating campaign to a school in Doncaster, one mother smuggled in junk food for her grease-starved children. In Queens, parents are more likely to test new dishes at PS244Q’s “family dinner” nights.

Bob Groff, the school’s principal, says support from everyone, including its partner, the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, is already producing results. “Our internal studies show a clear reduction in the percentage of fat in body weight,” he tells The Independent. “And kids bring this home – they ask Mum if they can switch to brown rice or  request chickpeas for dinner.”

The school, which permits  pupils to bring meat in packed lunches (but not fizzy drinks or many snacks), makes meals  within public budgets and child-nutrition guidelines. Pupils also attend food and health classes three times a week.

New York plans to expand the burger-free regime, and Groff has received calls from intrigued principals across the country. But, the Doncaster mother notwithstanding, could a chickpea revolution reach Britain?

There are already vegetarian schools here, it turns out, though they are as rare as steak tartare. The Krishna Avanti Primary School in west London became the first vegetarian state school when it opened in 2010. The Hindu faith school opened another meat-free branch in Leicester the following year.

A handful of non-faith vegetarian schools includes Lewes New School, an independent in East Sussex. It offers vegetarian lunches and requires packed lunches to be meat-free. “Parents don’t mind at all,” says Catherine Speak, the school secretary.

Where meat is served, options for vegetarians can be poor. Last year, Harley McIntosh, an A-level student from Bury, launched a Jamie-style petition to urge the Government to improve them after growing up on a diet of chips and cheese sandwiches.

Neither food would make the menu at St Christopher School in Letchworth, Hertfordshire. It has been vegetarian since 1915, according to the desire of its founders to “make sure members of any faith could sit and eat together”. Emma-Kate Henry, its deputy head, adds: “It also fits well with healthy eating, and pupils like it.” It’s not clear whether fans include steak-necking restaurant reviewers AA Gill and the late Michael Winner, who both attended the independent school.

Henry, who isn’t vegetarian and has worked in state schools, says that beyond the case for health or ethics, meat-free meals make economic sense. “Budgets mean the meat you’re going to be offering won’t be the best. If you take that out, you have far more scope.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

    £25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor