The childhood obesity problem is our national shame. Over 1/3 of kids in this country are overweight, so I applaud anyone who tries to tackle this potentially deadly issue. However, I was surprised by the approach of a group of New York City educators. A public school in Flushing, Queens is the first to serve all-vegetarian meals for breakfast and lunch.
School chefs have replaced chicken, turkey and ham with tofu and falafel. Forget tater tots and sloppy joes, these kids are chowing down on black bean and cheddar cheese quesadillas. In general, it's a great move. I think this new meal plan sounds healthy, if not exactly fair.
I doubt that most kids in that neighborhood are vegetarians. And while I do think having vegetarian options available is a good thing, they should also offer the kids meat. There are certainly healthy, low-fat ways to cook poultry -- baked chicken, grilled turkey burgers, and turkey sandwiches would be acceptable too, I would think. Why must they eliminate meat completely?
Officials hope this is the first of many schools that will follow suit in New York City and beyond. The philosophy behind it is that if we teach our kids to make healthy choices at a young age, they will do so for the rest of their lives. But meat options can be healthy too. It is is a very important source of protein that I wish my picky eater ate more of. And he is more likely to do that when he is eating with his friends. Seeing them take a big bite of a chicken strip and sandwich encourages him to do the same. So, while a vegetarian mean plan is a definite improvement on what children have historically been served in school, it may not be best for every student. Why can’t they cook healthy alternatives for both meat eaters and vegetarians?
Do you think all-vegetarian school meals are a good idea?
Image via erix!/Flickr