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.”