East Harlem School Serves Up Locally Sourced Vegetarian Lunches

Health-focused lunch menu makes the grade at East Harlem School from CUNY J-School Video Storytelling on Vimeo.

More than 100 Manhattan middle school students enjoy a locally sourced, vegetarian lunch each weekday at the East Harlem School. The charter school, which has been dishing up veggie meals for years, made the switch to an über-healthy menu this year with the help of a new chef.

While the school’s previous menus cut out meat-based fat and cholesterol, they were stuffed with salt and sodium. To reduce those unsavory extras, the new menu features seasonal, local ingredients prepared by executive chef Jonah Chasin.

The head of the East Harlem School, Ivan Hageman, says that the charter decided to go meatless about 15 years ago to balance what students were—and were not—eating at home.

“A kid would tell you they were having a ‘beige’ meal, so potatoes, corn—but nothing green, nothing red. So basically no vegetables,” Hageman says. “We knew that for at least one meal a day, if we went strictly vegetarian, we would have a shot of getting some of the vitamins and minerals and also the [healthy] eating habits into their lives.”

  3 comments for “East Harlem School Serves Up Locally Sourced Vegetarian Lunches

  1. September 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Wow. Not only does this offer these kids a more holistically nutritional meal every day, but it also encourages them to pay attention to what they eat. “Home ec” and health classes in my elementary and middle schools encouraged us to read ingredients (especially to be wary of anything we couldn’t pronounce), avoid sodium, and eat fresh, colorful vegetables, but then what did they feed us in the cafeteria? It’s especially great that Chasin lets kids go into the kitchen, answers their questions, and that he listens to their feedback.

    So many schools these days are cutting out sodas in favor of selling milk, etc, and while these measures aren’t detrimental, they don’t encourage the actual inquiry that schools could/should be teaching. That’s the next step that’s necessary to teach students to make good food choices in the real world, and while of course most schools can’t afford to hire a “chef” like this, there are still important lessons to be learned here. Great article!

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