NYC Elementary School Goes Vegetarian

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New York City, the metropolis that brought us bans on large sugary drinks and trans fats, is now the home of the first public elementary school with an all vegetarian cafeteria.

"Whether through the vegetarian diet here or other types of menu options we have in our schools, it all involves healthy eating," NYC Schools Chancellor Denis Walcott said.

Public School 224 in Queens has been experimenting with all veggie meals since earlier this year. Now it's five days a week.

"This menu here in this school I would have to say is definitely in the vanguard of the options that we want to offer kids," Jorge Collazo, executive chef for the NYC Department of Education, said.

PS 224 has more than 400 students from pre-kindergarten through third grade. School officials say before they began the full vegetarian menu, students seemed to gravitate toward vegetarian items.

"It makes me nutritious and want to tell my family, which makes me more nutritious," said Moniza Mujtaba, a student at the school.

"It's very healthy and it makes your body strong," said Bence Kalan, another student.

Meanwhile, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) couldn't be more pleased.

"We think this is a really exciting development," one PETA staffer said.

There was a less enthusiastic response when a reporter asked the kids if they liked the new lunches. And some worry that a vegetarian diet doesn't provide the protein growing kids need.

But some health food advocates, like Amie Hamlin, executive director of the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, say they're not worried.

"Most people in this country get two to three times more than they need, and plant-based proteins are actually very healthy," she said. "They have no cholesterol and they're low in total fat and saturated fat and they're high in fiber."

PS 224 is a zoned neighborhood school, so students who prefer meat aren't able to transfer out and children who prefer to eat vegetarian can't transfer in.

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