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  1. News Release

  2. May 15, 2024

Doctors, NY Lawmakers Host Food Tasting and Press Conference in Support of Plant-Based School Lunch Legislation

Jennifer Yager, DO; David Eisenberg, MD; Amie Hamlin; Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar; Andrew Binovi, Physicians Committee Director of Government Affairs; Kerry Graff, MD; Jamie Kane, MD
Jennifer Yager, DO; David Eisenberg, MD; Amie Hamlin; Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar; Andrew Binovi, Physicians Committee Director of Government Affairs; Kerry Graff, MD; Jamie Kane, MD

ALBANY, N.Y.—Falafel Bowls, Powered Up Pasta with Chickpeas, and Veggie Skewers were just a few of the plant-based food items on the menu at a May 15 legislative reception supporting S996 (Hoylman-Sigal) / A3708 (Rajkumar). The legislation will promote student health and foster health equity by providing plant-based options upon request to students in New York public schools.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, in coordination with Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar, hosted the press conference and reception. Attendees at the reception sampled a delicious lunch while hearing from New York physicians, school food advocates, and other experts on the importance of advancing S996 / A3708.

Speakers included Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, S996 Senate Bill sponsor; Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar, A3708 Assembly Bill sponsor; Jennifer Yager, DO, psychiatry and lifestyle medicine; David Eisenberg, MD, pediatrics; Jamie Kane, MD, obesity medicine; Kerry Graff, MD, family and lifestyle medicine; and Amie Hamlin, executive director of the Coalition for Healthy School Food.

“I am proud to have the support of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the entire coalition that has come together calling for passage of my bill A3708 requiring plant-based meals in our schools,” says Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar. “I have enjoyed the plant-based lifestyle since high school. When I began my journey, we did not have regular access to plant-based school meals. My landmark bill will ensure all 2.5 million public school students in the State can enjoy plant-powered food and reap its many benefits. In New York State, we serve as many as 41 million school meals each month. Making those meals plant-powered will boost our children’s health, save taxpayer dollars, and put us on a path to a sustainable future. This diet reduces our children’s risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and a host of other health conditions. It costs up to 40% less and produces 50% fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Even better, plant-powered food is delicious! My bill will allow all our children to enjoy this healthy, environmentally friendly, affordable, and delectable diet.”

The legislation is especially critical as diet-related diseases are on the rise in students. In New York, childhood obesity rates have increased significantly from 2019 to 2022. Currently, 1 in 5 New York children are obese, according to the New York State Department of Health. Obesity can cause type 2 diabetes, the prevalence of which increased 95% in U.S. children between 2001 and 2017. Black and Hispanic youth saw the greatest increase in type 2 diabetes.

“Plant-based eating is good for the environment, good for animals, and, best of all, good for you. That’s why I sponsored the law that ensures a plant-based meal option in all hospitals for all patients (S.1471A), and I’m now glad to sponsor the bill to bring the opportunity for plant-based eating to schools (S.996),” says Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal. “Our children deserve the option to enjoy a healthy, plant-based lifestyle if they so choose, and this legislation will set them up for a lifetime of healthy habits by showing that plant-based foods are delicious, nutritious, and available to all.”

healthy vegan food

Research shows that a plant-based diet improves weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in obese children. The American Diabetes Association endorses a plant-based diet, noting that “a variety of eating patterns are acceptable for the management of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes including ... plant-based diets.”

The legislation will also increase health equity in New York schools by providing food options that will not cause discomfort to students during the school day. More than 80% of New York public school students are in ethnic and racial demographic groups that typically cannot digest lactose and become physically uncomfortable after consuming dairy, which is required to be served with most school lunches.

“S996 / A3708 will give New York public school students access to healthy plant-based school lunches loaded with fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans,” says Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “Plant-based diets are the best fuel for students’ bodies and minds and help them fight increasingly common diet-related diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

Several New York public school districts report that serving plant-based items costs less or is cost-neutral compared to serving meat-based items.

Media Contact

Michael Keevican

202-527-7367

mkeevican[at]pcrm.org

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.

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