BY JOE MARVILLI
While being healthier has been a longtime goal of the Dept. of Education and the City government, one school in Flushing is leading by example.
PS 244, the Active Learning Elementary School, is now the first New York City public school to serve an all-vegetarian menu. According to a press release, it is one of the first public schools in the country to do so as well.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott was on hand in the school’s cafeteria on April 30 to celebrate the achievement with PS 244’s faculty, staff and a third grade class.
“When we see that instilled in our students, that’s to me the greatest thing because it values everything that we’re about as far as healthy eating, high learning taking place in our classrooms and making sure our students succeed and do well,” he said.
The school, located at 137-20 Franklin Ave., has been working towards this goal since it opened in 2008, said principal Robert Groff.
“About six years ago, a small group of us laid out a vision for a school that would focus not only on educating students academically but also on how to live healthy lives,” he said. “We believed that if we taught kids how to make healthy choices, that it would help them grow as students as well as well-rounded children, educating their mind, body and character.”
While the vegetarian menu was initially only three days a week, it slowly expanded to four days a week and then switched over to an all-vegetarian cuisine early this year.
“I hope that today’s events inspire other schools to work towards making the changes that we have,” Groff said.
Also on hand to celebrate the achievement was Eric Goldstein, CEO of School Support Services, and Amie Hamlin, executive director of New York Coalition for Healthy School Food.
“It’s been a revolution in school food. We can remember back in the day when we went to school, the concept of an all-vegetarian public school was something unheard of,” Goldstein said. “Thank you for allowing us to serve you guys.”
“PS 244 is indeed special,” Hamlin added. “This school is willing to take a chance and try out a vegetarian menu and we are so pleased that it’s been so well received by the students and their families.”
Walcott praised the school and its staff for taking the initiative on creating the all-vegetarian menu, mentioning that one of the students’ parents is a cook at the school as well. Two of her recipes are being used in other schools in addition to PS 244.
“The beauty of today’s announcement is it is not driven by all of us in tweed,” Walcott said. “This is really coming from the school directly; from the parents, from the students, from the staff, working with our not-for-profit partner to make sure they came up with menus that provide healthy options for our students.”
After the press conference ended, Walcott joined the 3rd grade for lunch, looking at a menu that included a black bean and cheddar quesadilla, red roasted potatoes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese sandwiches and fresh fruit.
Reach Reporter Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.