Mayor Eric Adams along with the Department of Education and the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy released a comprehensive plan Tuesday that aims to teach New York City’s public-school students about healthy eating habits as well as how to grow and cook nutritious food.
The mayor unveiled the plan, called “Prioritizing Food Education in Our Public Schools: A Path to Developing a Healthy Next Generation,” while visiting P.S. 75 on the Upper West Side. The plan includes a series of goals and strategies to teach students about nutrition and healthy eating. It also calls for educating children about the components of the food system—from production through to consumption—and how these components interact with the climate, economy and local community.
“New York City is leading the way in healthy food, eating, and lifestyles — and I am proud to announce the next step in our journey: New York City’s first ever food education roadmap,” Adams said in a statement. “I know the power of healthy eating firsthand: Switching to a plant-based diet reversed the effects of my type 2 diabetes and saved my eyesight. With this roadmap, we’re going to teach our children how to eat better — building healthier schools, healthier communities, and a healthier city for all New Yorkers.”
The plan is based on three main goals. The first is educating students on healthy eating habits and wellness; the second, providing students with access to healthy and culturally appropriate meals in school; and the third, building a school community comprised of parents and administrators who are wellness ambassadors.
The roadmap includes a number of strategies to meet that end, including the development of a “Food Education Guidebook.” The guidebook will cover the programs to be taught; meal options to be provided, such as Halal; as well as capital improvements needed to build out school kitchens and cafeterias in order to provide healthy meals.
The roadmap is accompanied by a report that highlights the importance of food education, noting that healthy eating habits are associated with a myriad of health benefits, such as reducing the risk of chronic diet-related disease, including type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension.
Furthermore, the report reveals that nearly 40% of New York City public school children are either overweight or obese, and that childhood obesity disproportionately impacts Black and Latino students.
The mayor’s roadmap aims to expand food education across the entire public school system.
Currently, 56% of K-12 public schools (1,025 schools) have at least one food education program, according to the report. However, 815 schools, or 44%, lack even one. The shortage is particularly true for high schools, since food education programs are much more common in elementary school, according to the report.
The plan also aims to broaden the concept of “food education” and good eating to beyond the nutritional benefits—to include the external effects of food choices on the environment and local economy.
“Food education throughout a child’s career in New York City’s public schools is essential,” said MOFP Executive Director Kate MacKenzie. “Through comprehensive food education, students can build an understanding of food’s role in our many cultures, our relationships, our history, and our environment. This knowledge can empower our children to make healthy choices and achieve success inside the classroom and beyond.”
The mayor said that the students will also be in a position to teach their families and communities about the importance of healthy eating, which, he says, is a benefit to all New Yorkers.
Several elected officials praised the administration for the initiative.
“Developing a food roadmap for schools is crucial in promoting healthy eating habits and creating strong, healthy communities,” said New York City Council Member Marjorie Velázquez, whose district covers an eastern portion of the Bronx, in a statement. “By encouraging community engagement and collaboration, a food roadmap can foster a sense of shared responsibility and commitment toward creating a healthier future for all.”
U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler, who represents a significant portion of Manhattan, issued a similar statement.
“Building healthy eating habits early is essential for our student’s development and making them better learners,” Nadler said. “I’m pleased to support this initiative to raise nutritional awareness among young New Yorkers and our school communities.”