One Long Island community with high rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure is looking at the next generation and taking a small step toward reversing the trend. Wyandanch has gone Meatless.
Joining the over one million schoolchildren in the U.S. participating in Meatless Monday, the Wyandanch, N.Y., school district recently introduced Meatless Monday to the student body, cutting out chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers on Mondays, and replacing them with Beyond Meat products, which are made from soy and pea protein.
As reported on WCBS-TV/New York and Newsday, for many families, the benefits of going meatless once a week hit home. Sophomore Jacob Blassingame told Newsday his family has a history of diabetes, so he’s trying to be more careful with what he eats. “It still tastes the same, it’s still good,” he said as he ate the Meatless Monday ziti. “It’s just a little bit healthier.”
Proof that the kitchen can be a classroom, Wyandanch High School principal Paul Sibblies noted in an interview how students are discussing and learning from Meatless Monday. “This initiative, when we started the Meatless Monday, it brought about a conversation which evolved into something special,” Sibblies said.
Those thoughts were echoed by school lunch manager Pamela Usher, who sees Meatless Monday as an educational tool for students and staff. “We’re introducing products that some students never tried before,” Usher said in that same interview. “So it’s all a learning process for the students and as well as the staff because the staff as well is learning how to prepare this product that they’ve never prepared before.”
Several students interviewed embraced the change, acknowledging the fact that issues like high blood pressure and high cholesterol were in their family histories. And that’s why Meatless Monday works in schools. While being treated to new flavors and foods once a week, students also get a chance to see the bigger picture, and how their overall diet affects health. As Principal Sibblies told Newsday, he wants students to make the connection between “how they are treating their bodies and how it impacts learning.”
Brenda Sexton, head cook at the high school, admitted to Newsday the reservations that many people have when they hear of Meatless Monday for the first time, especially those who’s job it is to feed others. “The kids here are not used to that kind of stuff,” she said. “But we did it, and the kids said, ‘Hey, that isn’t so bad!’”