NYC Just Made A Major Change To Public School Lunch Menus

Although school lunch programs have been around for nearly a century now, they've changed dramatically over the years. Before World War II, schools relied on government funding to provide students with fruit, milk, and other food items. With less funding available, school lunches quickly declined in nutritional value, according to TIME. Younger generations might recall school lunches of pizza, cheeseburgers, and the ultimate treat — Bosco Sticks (via Eater).

School lunch programs made a big shift toward healthier options in 2010, following first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move program, says Mental Floss. Emphasis was placed on fruits, veggies, and an all-around balanced meal. Some schools even went so far as to close vending machines and restrict bake sales.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government waived eligibility requirements for free meals so all children can get the nutrition they need. NYC's public schools, the largest school district in the country, have taken an additional step. 

Going beyond traditional school lunch options

As part of its update to national dietary guidelines, the USDA proposed new requirements for school lunches. Most notably, grains in school lunches must be at least 80% whole grains. Standards for sodium levels and milk offerings were also modified.

According to Good Morning America, NYC public schools already function on a twice-weekly meatless menu, but moving forward, school lunches on Fridays will be entirely vegan. The first vegan lunch gave students the option of a burrito or black beans, tomato, and corn, to mixed reviews (via ABC 7). Despite a shaky start, the vegan menu can only improve.

In addition to providing meals for students who may not have access to food otherwise, the Vegan Fridays initiative aims to teach children about eating healthy. As the USDA continues to adjust national guidelines, school lunch programs will follow suit. Together, we can raise up a healthier generation.